17 Epic Places You Never Thought To Travel, But Should

“Be a traveller, not a tourist, in 2017”, say HuffPost.

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Paris? Been there. London? Done that. No offense to those storied standbys, but 2017 is a time to break out of your travel bubble and try someplace you’ve never thought to visit before.

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.

1. South Korea

Don’t let its northern neighbour scare you off: South Korea is full of adventurous travellers’ delights like national parks, mountains and islandsSki resorts here are top-notch, as some are preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. For a more urban feel, try Korean BBQ in Seoul or chill out in Busan, a coastal city.

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Seoraksan National Park is the proud site of South Korea’s third-highest mountai. It also features hot springs, temples and jagged rock formations.

Locals vacation on Jeju Island for its beaches, outdoor spas and spine-tingling lava tube tours.

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Changdeokgung Palace, a 15th-century royal villa in Seoul, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Builders expertly designed the complex to accommodate the uneven terrain at the foot of a mountain peak.

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Cable cars haul skiers at what is now Deogyusan Resort, where hot springs await after a day on the slopes.

2. Mauritius

Mauritius is delicious. This tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean offers up a low-key vibe and endless turquoise waters perfect for sports like wind and kitesurfing. You can also sample local rum and street food or explore churches, temples, mosques and lighthouses from Mauritius’ rich history as a colonial trade hub.

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Le Morne Brabant is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site that serves as “an exceptional testimony to… resistance to slavery.” The mountain’s forbidding cliffs hid runaway slaves known as maroons, and their oral traditions live on.

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It doesn’t get better than this.

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This is the Seven Coloured Earths in Chamarel, where naturally occurring sands of different colours form unique striped dunes.

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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.

3. Kazakhstan

The world’s ninth-largest country is not just for Borat: Fans of architecture, city tours and wilderness explorations will feel right at home in this little-explored corner of the earth. Start in Almaty, the biggest city, for clothing markets and upscale restaurants. Then, venture out to the Tian Shan mountains and hike sacred forests where many modern fruit crops were first cultivated.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The city of Aktau, a hub for the oil industry, sits on the Caspian Sea and is a popular spot among locals for swimming.

4. Cyprus

This lush Mediterranean island sat under the rule of many ancient empires, and it shows: A trip here might include visits to a Byzantine monastery, a mosque or the tombs of high-ranking Hellenistic and Roman officials, which are part of a larger UNESCO world heritage site. Oh, and did we mention the island’s postcard-perfect beaches?

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In the port town of Kyrenia, you can take a boat cruise to swimming and snorkeling spots or visit a castle for a charming bird’s-eye view of the harbor.

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Limassol, Cyprus’ second-biggest city (and still a quaint one at that), has a lively bar and restaurant scene.

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See remains of an ancient outdoor theater, villas and baths at Kourion, a former city-kingdom on the coast.

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Adorable Pissouri village is the place to go for horseback riding and pub-hopping. Don’t be fooled, though: The ocean and impeccable diving are still within reach.

5. Latvia

Did you know Latvia has white sand beaches? This Baltic Sea gem, formerly part of the Soviet Union, is full of little surprises and a slight Scandinavian flair. The capital, Riga, was named the European Capital of Culture in 2014, and roughly half of the country is made up of pristine, accessible natural ecosystems. Historical Old Towns, churches and castles abound.

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Riga’s town hall square features the iconic House of the Blackheads, which was built in 1334, destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1999.

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Above is the Gauja River, on the border between Estonia and Latvia. Its namesake national park holds more than 500 cultural and historical monuments.

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Not a bad place to spend a summer’s day! Latvia sits across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm, Sweden.

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Kemeri National Park features a variety of wetlands, including the Great Kemeri Bog, which can be traversed by boardwalk.

6. Ecuador

Perched between Colombia and Peru on the Pacific, Ecuador has everything: mountains, beaches, rainforest, volcanos, hot springs, and the famous wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Once part of the Inca Empire, this dramatically beautiful land is steeped in both pre-Colombian and Spanish colonial culture and is perfect for cheap travellerstrek-happy adventurers and history lovers ― after all, Quito’s sprawling UNESCO-tapped city center is the colonial jewel of South America. (Bonus: Ecuador is on the dollar, so there’s no need to exchange currency.)

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Above is a photo of Bartolome Island in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The endemic species in this volcanic archipelago inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and both land and sea are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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The Chimborazo volcano is the highest mountain in Ecuador.

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The historic center of Cuenca is yet another of Ecuador’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The town still subscribes to the rigid planning guidelines with which it was founded in 1557.

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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.

7. Samoa

This island nation ― not be confused with its equally awesome neighbour, American Samoa ― includes 10 islands brimming with volcanoes, waterfalls, rainforests, swimming holes and beaches. Journeying to a natural ocean blowhole or diving deep into a cave pool is just the beginning. Down-to-earth travellers will enjoy its lack of fancy resorts, too.

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Swimmers hop into To Sua Ocean Trench, part of a larger area with natural rock pools and blowholes.

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Perfect water awaits you on Upolu Island’s southwest coast.

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Papapapaitai Falls is about as impressive as waterfalls get: This showstopper tumbles into a giant gorge. Continue down the Cross Island Road for more falls, swimming holes and picnic spots.

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Upolu Island has plenty of beachfront hotels and ecolodges to maximize your time on the warm white sand.

8. Uruguay

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.

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Stroll the cosmopolitan streets of Montevideo, including the famous Plaza Independencia.

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The rambling, eccentric Casapueblo resort in Punta Ballena was built by late Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, who was inspired by the mud nests of native hornero birds.

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The resort town of Punta del Este is known as a place to party, but the public art deserves a hand, too.

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Uruguay’s interior hills are rich in gaucho culture. Book a rural lodge and explore the beautiful countryside on horseback.

9. Namibia

First-time visitors to Africa should start here, in the world’s oldest desert, to experience the thrill of feeling like the last tourist on Earth. Considering its vast selection of wildlifenational parks, shipwrecks and larger-than-life sand dunes, Namibia somehow remains awesomely uncrowded. Many cities and towns have a distinctly German feel ― complete with German restaurants and colonial architecture ― due to years under European rule.

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Zebras drink at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, which offers various epic safaris.

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Ludertiz, a confusingly colonial harbour town, includes an old Lutheran church and bustling village shops that make it feel like anywhere but Africa.

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The quiver tree, a common sight in Southern Namibia, stands tall in a nature park known as Giant’s Playground.

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Off-roaders sit ready to explore the desert’s massive sand dunes, which also make for a daring day hike.

10. Guatemala

Mayan ruins play a starring role in Guatemala. Deep in the jungle, Tikal National Park is a lush playground of plazas, temples and dwellings that are well over 1,000 years old. Equally gorgeous are Guatemala’s active volcanoes, cascading lagoons and the Caribbean-blue Lake Petén Itzá. Even with all these natural wonders, a historic hotel-museum tops the list of places to visit nationwide.

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From the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D., Mayans inhabited what is now Tikal National Park. Current residents include jaguars, howler monkeys and more than 60 species of bats.

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Parque Central is a popular outdoor gathering place in Antigua, a city in the highlands.

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At Lake Petén Itzá, the blue water is perfect for sunsets and swimming with the locals.

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Daredevils can hike or camp near a handful of active volcanos in Guatemala’s rugged wilderness, though be careful to do so at the right time of year.

11. Papua New Guinea

One look at the water should make it, ahem, clear that this is a paradise. The U.S. State Department cautions that due to crime, an organized tour booked through a travel agency is the best way to explore this stunningly diverse and practically untouched country. (There’s little luxury involved, but it’s a trip of a lifetime.) Try a trekking tour along the rugged, mountainous Kokoda Track or journey to a sing-sing festival, at which Papua New Guineans display their many unique tribal cultures through music and dance.

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White sand beaches and few interruptions are hallmarks of the New Ireland Province.

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Capital Port Moresby is beautiful from the air, though its crime rate calls for sensible precautions. Infrastructure is virtually non-existent outside PNG’s major cities ― another reason to book a tour rather than travelling on your own.

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Local tribes celebrate a sing-sing in the Highlands. Some 836 indigenous languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, most by fewer than a thousand speakers each.

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Of course, Papua New Guinea boasts excellent snorkelling and diving.

12. Newfoundland, Canada

Why Newfoundland? Here, east coasters can kayak with icebergs without taking a long flight to Greenland or Alaska and beyond. Then there’s 18,000 miles of unspoiled coastline with some 200 walking trails, plus the 22 species of whales that pass through Newfoundland and Labrador between May and September. Add in dramatic, glacier-carved fjords, and this part of Canada is truly a dream for nature lovers who prefer their international travel over-easy.

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Icebergs arrive from the Arctic each spring to places like Trinity Bay, above. Check the map of “Iceberg Alley,” then book a boat or kayak or car to experience them up close.

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We really can’t get enough of Gros Morne National Park, which, in addition to cool neon jellyfish, contains towering fjords you can tour by boat.

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The Fort Amherst historical site in St. John’s honors Colonel William Amherst, who recaptured the area from the French in 1762.

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Fall in Newfoundland is not too shabby. This is the Humber River in autumn.

13. Romania

Dracula’s homeland oozes eeriness and intrigue: The country has emerged from its Communist past to the delight of travellers who come to explore its medieval towns and ornate castles, including the one where fiction’s scariest bloodsucker once lived. Beyond the charming cobblestone streets, you’ll find adventurous alpine hikes through the towering Carpathian Mountains and all-inclusive beach resorts on the Black Sea coast.

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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.

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Corvin Castle in Transylvania features about 50 rooms of medieval art. It’s known as the most impressive Gothic castle in the country.

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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.

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Bucharest, Romania’s capital, is known for high energy and good food. Socialist and Art Nouveau architecture coexist here, and the nightlife is some of Eastern Europe’s best.

14. Laos

Even backpackers who have “seen it all” in Thailand and Cambodia will be awestruck in Laos. Stunning waterfalls, soaring mountains and blazing green rice fields are best enjoyed at the Laotian locals’ decidedly slow pace of life. Take a break from zip-lining and cave kayaking to join a yoga retreat or help out on an organic farm. The cuisine ― think sticky rice, papaya salad and fresh fish ― is worth savoring, too.

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A hot air balloon flies over Vang Vieng, a jungle town and magnet for backpackers.

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Kuang Si Falls are a refreshing ― but cold! ― place to swim. Prepare for the hike in, and look out for hidden pools along the way.

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Terraced rice fields overlook a village in Mu Cang Chai.

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Buddha Park in Vientiane is probably the most stunning sculpture park you’ll ever see.

15. Azerbaijan

“Untapped” may be the best way to describe this coastal country between Iran and Russia. Start in the capital of Baku, whose Old City has UNESCO world heritage status as a rare example of ancient architecture. Then, move out to explore quaint rural villages at the base of the Great Caucasus mountains. Former Peace Corps volunteers have set up a network of local homestays to help visitors enjoy the country’s outer fringes, where paved roads are scarce but the land is lush.

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Baku mixes old architecture with glittering 21st-century towers on the Caspian Sea.

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The Government House is just one of many historic monuments to see in Baku.

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Baku also offers museums, theaters, libraries and an opera house. Treat yourself to a balcony room at the glimmering Four Seasons Hotel.

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High in the mountains, Xinaliq is home to friendly shepherds who can point you in the right direction for adventurous hikes.

16. Slovenia

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.)

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The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation overlooks Ljubljana’s famous Triple Bridge, a lively spot at night.

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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.

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A tour boat on the Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana.

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The town of Piran is a “luminescent pearl” on the Adriatic Sea.

17. The Seychelles

Will and Kate honeymooned here, so you know the views are fit for royalty. This collection of around 115 islands in the Indian Ocean is basically a beach-y theme park, with inlets of every size and type. It could take weeks to see them all. Thank goodness there are both private island villas and casual B&Bs to stay in.

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With its pink sand and smooth boulders, Anse Source D’Argent is regularly praised as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Get there early in the day before other fanatics arrive.

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The beaches at Beau Vallon are some of the most highly trafficked in the Seychelles, but they’re still pleasantly low-key.

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From above, Mahe Island’s jungle flora and coastal towns shine in all their glory. Aside from the usual lineup of tucked-away beaches, the island’s forested interior is a hiker’s paradise.

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St. Pierre is the teensy-tiny islet of your wildest dreams. Seriously.

 

 

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The TEN Most INCREDIBLE (And Unique) Design Hotels In The World…

Wow, wow and wow again: godsavethepoints impresario Gilbert Ott has found some awe-inspiring establishments to kick the new year off.  Prepare to book your flights people..!


Read at your own risk. Staying in hotels equally, if not more, inspiring than your destination may lead to extreme laziness, lack of tourism, excess alcohol consumption, increased pool time, outstanding food and a need to return to your destination, so that you can actually visit! These are the most inspiring hotels we’ve found anywhere in the world…

IceHotel Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Located in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, The IceHotel is truly something to behold. No two experiences at the hotel are the same, due to the fact that the hotel completely melts every year. True art.

Year after year, a group of pure ice artisans form the IceHotel, offering guests literally one of the coolest places to sleep. If you’re going to stay in an ice hotel, make sure to grab a drink at the Svedka Bar to keep you warm. Prices start at around $325 a night.

Bambu Indah Glass Floor UdangHouse , Bali

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As far as instant awesome goes, setting up camp along the remote rivers and rice fields of Bali, only to find a glass bottom room in a private villa, certainly qualifies. There’s an unlimited mix of adventure, cuisine and serenity in one of the most sought-after places on earth.

By venturing to authentic Bali, your eyes aren’t the only thing to be rewarded, with rates for the gorgeous glass bottom Udang house starting at just $195 per night. Dang!

Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland

These are not your average igloos. At the Hotel Kakslauttanen you’ll find yourself in a luxurious, all-glass igloo staring through an uninhibited view of the skies – oh and by the way, that view will also most likely include the Northern Lights…

Though it looks like a village of spaceships, this luxe winter hotel sells out well in advance, fetching rates that start at $900 per night. That’ll have you seeing stars in no time!

Giraffe Manor, Kenya

Tables of two often turn into tables of three, where free-roaming giraffes decide to join the party for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re on safari without leaving your hotel room, this is your best bet.

You’ll find the utmost in sophistication inside and out, making Giraffe manor a perfect place to start or end a safari. Sadly the giraffes don’t pay for their share of the room and board, leaving you with a $1,000 a night hotel bill…

Conrad Hilton, Maldives

The Conrad Maldives is one of the few places where “sleeping with the fishes” is something you’d actually ask for. With water clearer than your swimming pool, you’ll find abundant light and fish everywhere you look. You can even eat some at the underwater restaurant…

Private villas, plunge pools and total peace, all sadly with a price, starting at $750 and moving on up, way, way up per night.

Explora Patagonia, Chile

Sure, it looks like a Bond villain’s lair nestled in the remote reaches of Patagonia, and (minus the bond villain part) it is. The Explora Patagonia is a home away from earth, nestled in the foothills of some of this planet’s most dramatic terrain.

To sleep in a room perched atop a waterfall, surrounded by glacial beauty, you’ll need to have a windfall of cash, with prices starting at $1,200 per night. Probably worth it though!

Manta Resort Floating Villa, Zanzibar

Just about everyone has thought about leaving the world behind. At the Floating Hotel in Zanzibar, you can literally do it, snagging your own private villa on top of a natural blue hole in a pristine ocean.

With an underwater bedroom, you won’t have to worry about peeking neighbors – apart from the tropical fish of course, which will surely be interested in all your activity. For the privilege of sleeping in your own ocean cottage, you’ll find prices reeling in $,1500 a night…

Costa Verde 727 Villa, Costa Rica

Those who absolutely cannot wait to get out of the thin aluminum tube that transports you to your destination might not be too excited by this Costa Rican gem, but for all the aviation geeks out there, this is the best form of plane crash in the world.

Like an episode of Lost, you’ll find yourself in the jungle, in a luxuriously tangled aircraft fuselage offering a private villa in the Rainforest. Very cool. You won’t need to be raining money to experience this aviation dream though, with rates starting at $260 per night for the whole plane. It’s a lot cheaper than flying!

Jade Mountain, St Lucia

A picture is worth a thousand words, and for a night at this breathtaking St. Lucia resort, that’s about how many dollars you’ll need to take one with this view. Unobstructed, untouched and otherworldly.

Unfortunately, I was serious: rates start at $1,185 per night. If it makes you feel better, almost every room features a personal infinity pool with these near priceless views…

TreeHotel MirrorCube Treehouse, Sweden

Some people never grow up; some wish they never did. Whichever side of the mirror you’re on, a stay in a luxury five star treehouse in pristine Swedish woods will do you right. Summer hiking, winter adventure, it’s hard to find a more unique place to spend a holiday…

The TreeHotel features six individually styled luxe “tree houses” including the Mirrorcube, a UFO and something called the Bird’s Nest. You’ll have to see it to believe it, and with prices starting at $500, you have a better chance than some of these other stunners…

 

 

Ten Gorgeous (And Underrated) BUCKET LIST Destinations That Simply Don’t Look REAL…

Another great feature from Gilbert Ott and the GodSaveThePoints team.  It’s a great site with plenty of awesome travel tips and loads of great ways to save money for the serious traveller, but here’s something a bit different with some excellent “extraterrestrial” venues for the die-hard Star Wars fan like me* …malaysia-long-hair

* spot the wookiee anyone?!


Space travel is so “in” right now, but before you don your space suit in search of interstellar beauty, you’re gunna want to knock these unbelievable destinations (which don’t look real) off your bucket list. Here are ten exotic places down here on earth that will blow your mind…

Lake Natron, Tanzania

You’re not insane, this naturally hot spring in Africa is so “hot” it turned the water red.

Vatnajökull, Iceland

How about a city sized cave, made of pure glacier blue ice to spice up your winter travel?

Bromo Volcano, Java, Indonesia

Mars takes years to reach. In less than a days flight you can see terrain just like it in Java…

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, Wyoming USA

Yep, those colors are totally real. Why? You can thank the pigmented Archaea.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Ultimate adventure? A boat ride in luminescent cave with light from tiny micro creatures…

Hang Son Doong Caves, Vietnam

In what looks like the set of a Star Wars film, these Vietnamese caves literally look unreal.

Lencois Maranhenses Park, Brazil

If you think you’re seeing an endless sea of unique sand bars and water, you’re not wrong.

Namib Naukluft Park, Namibia

Why travel to Mars and risk getting stuck like Matt Damon when you could just go here?

Wulinyuang Vista, China

Though I wouldn’t try building an airport here, the views are breathtaking…

Farafra White Desert, Egypt

Sure, we’ve seen desert, but white desert, with crazy rock wonders?

 

 

12 Amazing Places Most Millennials Will Never See

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.’

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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.

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Photo: Demerzel21

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.

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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.

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Photo: Soulad

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Unesco List of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Why Owambo dancing, Slovakian bagpipes and Saudis sharing coffee merit protection from UN agency

The Owambo women who organise a festival to celebrate omagongo – a fruit beverage – in northern Namibia, and Wititi folk dancers from Peru’s Colca Valley had cause for celebration. So too did Saudi coffee drinkers and bagpipe-playing Slovakians.

They all take part in 20 cultural practices deemed significant enough by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to be safeguarded as heritage to be preserved this week, writes the Independent.

Members of the Unesco committee responsible for “safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage” deemed that piping in Slovakia, with a history dating back to the 18th century, was sufficiently under threat to safeguard. While “bagpipe culture exists throughout Slovakia”, according to Unesco, few can still play the instrument.

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Owambo dancing in Namibia (Alamy )

“Communities are proud to have a bagpipe player perform at local events as the music invokes a sense of identity for the public,” said Unesco.

The organisation also highlighted the importance of the Kazakhstani art of improvisation known as “Aitys” or “Aitysh”. Shared by neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, it is a contest of poetic improvisation between two people, either spoken or sung to music. The lyricist displaying the most wit, rhythm and creativity wins.

Askar Zhiymbayev, First Secretary of the Kazakh Embassy in London, said: “Aitys is not only a cultural asset of Kazakhstan but also a cultural asset of humankind.”

The traditional Peruvian Wititi dance is characterised by colourful costumes and is performed annually on the Day of Wititi, on 14 July, in the Colca Valley of Arequipa, Southern Peru.

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Saudi men share coffee (Getty)

Peru’s Culture Minister, Diana Alvarez-Calderon, told Peruvian news agency Andina: “We want every Peruvian to enjoy this declaration… This proves us Peruvians know how to preserve our traditions and dances.”

Much attention focused on the choice of Unesco to include coffee drinking in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar on the list. Sharing a brew of the black stuff was, said the UN agency, a “symbol of generosity”.

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Slovakian bagpipes (UNESCO)

It said: “Serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies. Traditionally prepared in front of house guests by men and women, it is also served by sheikhs and heads of tribes.”

Also recognised in Saudi was “Alardah Alnajdiyah” dance, drumming and poetry performed carrying swords.

 

 

9 wonders of the world set to vanish forever: How many have you ticked off?

Some of the planet’s greatest spots have made Unesco’s danger list of World Heritage Sites on the verge of disappearing.  This article from the Independent highlights to me just how fragile our earth is and how easily and stupidly we can lose the beauty of nature all around us.  Let’s PLEASE all work together to help save the world we claim is so precious to us!   😦


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According to Unesco, parts of Liverpool are an endangered World Heritage Site (Shutterstock)

This month, we learned that Spain was facing the prospect of becoming the first European Union member state to have a natural World Heritage Site make Unesco’s “danger list”.  The Doñana coastal wetlands in Andalucía – home to the endangered Iberian lynx – is said to be under threat from a mining and dredging plan, as well as 1,000 illegal wells in the area.

But it’s just one among a number of incredible sites the world over that, according to Unesco, could be lost forever.  Here are just a few World Heritage Sites in Unesco’s danger zone that you might need to scrub off the bucket list.

Everglades National Park, Florida

Florida’s Everglades add some wonderfully swampy mystery to the state’s man-made draws of nightclubs and theme parks. Encompassing 1.5 million acres of wetland, the Everglades are a sanctuary for rare, endangered, and threatened species including the Florida panther and the manatee. Unesco says nutrient pollution and reduced water inflows are contributing to loss of marine habitat and the decline of marine species, with vast conservation efforts now needed to stem the damage.

Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls

Jerusalem is a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the Old City hosts an incredible 220 historic monuments, including major pilgrimage sites like the Dome of the Rock (the site of Abraham’s sacrifice) and the Wailing Wall. Unesco has said it is “deeply concerned” by what it calls “the persistence of the Israeli illegal excavations” around the Old City, which it says is damaging some historic sites. Unesco has also accused Israel of obstructing some restoration projects.

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The Old City of Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock at the back and the dome of the al-Aqsa mosque in the foreground (Getty)

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Belize has plenty to show for itself – ancient Mayan ruins, top diving site the Great Blue Hole – but the latter is part of what is now an endangered system, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve. The largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere – think of it as the north’s answer to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which itself could be heading for the danger zone – it’s home to a number of threatened species, including marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile.

Threats to the site include overharvesting of marine resources and proposed oil and gas exploration and exploitation. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 15 per cent of Belize’s gross domestic product comes from the reef – including about US$15 million from the commercial fishing industry and about $200 million from tourism. It suggests a more sustainable approach to managing the reef would benefit wildlife and people alike.

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An aerial view of the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize (Shutterstock)

Abu Mena, Egypt

This Christian holy city, a significant pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, includes a church, basilicas, public buildings, streets, monasteries, houses and workshops, which were built over the tomb of the martyr Menas of Alexandria, one of Egypt’s best-known saints. Agricultural work in the area has led to a rise in groundwater, causing the site’s buildings to collapse or become unstable, with a number of underground cavities opening up. The local authorities have been forced to fill the cavities with sand to save the buildings, including the crypt of Abu Mena, which contains the tomb of the saint.

Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, Indonesia

Spanning 2.5 million hectares, the tropical rainforest heritage of the wild Indonesian island of Sumatra spreads across three national parks, and is a protected area home to a wide range of endangered animals and plants, including the endemic Sumatran orang-utan. The site also provides biogeographic evidence of the evolution of the island. But the extraordinary beauty of this untamed, tangled land is deemed at significant risk thanks to road development plans, alongside the illegal logging and poaching of animals – including elephants and tigers – facilitated by such road access.

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The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (Getty)

Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, Georgia

Two gems of Georgian architecture, these medieval wonders have been placed on the endangered list after a reconstruction project to restore them went against Unesco recommendations on maintaining authenticity. The ruins of 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral in Georgia’s third-largest city, Kutaisi, and the nearby Gelati Monastery, which is covered with magnificent mosaics and wall paintings, are prized for representing “the flowering of medieval architecture” in the country. Unesco says irreversible interventions at the site undermine the integrity of these priceless nuggets of history.

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Georgia’s Gelati monastery complex (DDohler/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, Peru

Chan Chan was the capital of the ancient Chimu Kingdom before they fell to the Incas, and is a huge adobe settlement split into nine citadels, with temples, plazas and cemeteries still discernible. But this amazing example of earthen architecture is at risk owing to extreme environmental events, including those caused by El Niño.

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Chan Chan is a pre-Inca settlement in Peru (Tyler Bell/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar

An island of weird and wonderful creatures, Madagascar separated from all other land masses more than 60 million years ago, where its plant and animal life evolved in complete isolation. But Madagascar’s unique biodiversity depends on the Rainforests of the Atsinanana, which comprise six national parks. Illegal logging and hunting of the area’s endangered lemur are prime problems with the site.

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Lemurs are being illegally hunted in Madagascar (Getty)

Maritime Mercantile City, Liverpool

Liverpool enjoys the dubious honour of being one of only two endangered Unesco sites in Europe (the other is the medieval monuments of Kosovo). Six areas of Liverpool city centre and its docklands constitute its World Heritage listing, documenting Liverpool’s development into one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries. The city played an important role in the growth of the British Empire and became the major port for the mass movement of people. However, Unesco warns redevelopment in the area – namely, the multi-billion Liverpool Waters “mixed use” waterfront quarter – will adversely alter the site.

Weather Photographer of the Year 2016

Cataclysmic lightning and swirling tornadoes: these stunning images represent some of the world’s most dramatic weather events.

All finalists in the Weather Photographer of the Year 2016 competition – a brand new contest judged by The Royal Meteorological Society and The Royal Photographic Society – certainly put the UK’s recent thunderstorms down a few notches.

More than 800 photographs were submitted earlier this year, with winners across various categories announced last weekend at the Royal Meteorological Society’s Amateur Meteorologists’ Conference in Reading. 

Overall Weather Photographer of the Year 2016 was awarded to Tim Moxon for Tornado on Show. Mr Moxon said this was “one of the most photogenic tornadoes of the year”, snapped near the town of Wray, Colorado.

In first place for the over 16s category was Ben Cherry’s Sprite Lightning photograph. Judge Michael Pritchard praised him for “making the most of circumstance and having the serendipity to capture a very rare form of lightning”.

In the under 16s, James Bailey scooped the top prize for his image Hailstorm and Rainbow over the Seas of Covehithe. And as for the public’s favourite, more than 2,500 voters handed the accolade to Paul Kingston’s Storms Cumbria image.

I must say, some of the best I think are from the UK; thanks to the Mail Online for the extraordinary pics.  Polishing up my long lens now..!  – Ned


Overall Winner: An apocalyptic tornado near the town of Wray, Colorado, taken by Tim Moxon. He said: 'We were among a number of people, including those you see in the shot, nervously enjoying the epic display nature put on for us'

Overall Winner: An apocalyptic tornado near the town of Wray, Colorado, taken by Tim Moxon. He said: ‘We were among a number of people, including those you see in the shot, nervously enjoying the epic display nature put on for us’

First Place in Over 16s: Ben Cherry, who took this in Punta Banco, Costa Rica, says 'I set up the frame to include the pulsing storm and the milky way as I liked the contrast - then this sprite strike illuminated the sky and my jaw dropped'

First Place in Over 16s: Ben Cherry, who took this in Punta Banco, Costa Rica, says ‘I set up the frame to include the pulsing storm and the milky way as I liked the contrast – then this sprite strike illuminated the sky and my jaw dropped’

Froth: In the under 16s, James Bailey scooped the top prize for his image Hailstorm and Rainbow over the Seas of Covehithe 

Froth: In the under 16s, James Bailey scooped the top prize for his image Hailstorm and Rainbow over the Seas of Covehithe

Public's Favourite: Paul Kingston's Storms Cumbria. He said: 'The image I captured shows the inner harbour wall at Whitehaven, Cumbria, being hit by a monstrous wave, dwarfing the surrounding man-made structures'

Public’s Favourite: Paul Kingston’s Storms Cumbria. He said: ‘The image I captured shows the inner harbour wall at Whitehaven, Cumbria, being hit by a monstrous wave, dwarfing the surrounding man-made structures’

Battle: A clash between two storm cells in New Mexico in June 2014, each with its own rotating updraft, taken by Camelia Czuchnicki, who remarked 'it's the rarity of such scenes that keep drawing me back to the US Plains each year'

Battle: A clash between two storm cells in New Mexico in June 2014, each with its own rotating updraft, taken by Camelia Czuchnicki, who remarked ‘it’s the rarity of such scenes that keep drawing me back to the US Plains each year’

Nebraska storm: Stephen Lansdell's Mama Factory - the photographer and self-described 'storm chaser' said 'this  was so beautiful taking on many forms during its life and ending with one of the most spectacular shows I have ever witnessed'

Nebraska storm: Stephen Lansdell’s Mama Factory – the photographer and self-described ‘storm chaser’ said ‘this was so beautiful taking on many forms during its life and ending with one of the most spectacular shows I have ever witnessed’

UFO over Caucasus: This image was taken by Dmitry Demin from the cable car to Mount Cheget Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia

UFO over Caucasus: This image was taken by Dmitry Demin from the cable car to Mount Cheget Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia

Goldfish of the sky: According to photographer Alan Tough 'in early February 2016, unusually cold Arctic stratospheric air reached down as far as the UK, which triggered sightings of these rare and beautiful Polar Stratospheric  Clouds'

Goldfish of the sky: According to photographer Alan Tough ‘in early February 2016, unusually cold Arctic stratospheric air reached down as far as the UK, which triggered sightings of these rare and beautiful Polar Stratospheric Clouds’

Nick of time: Paul Andrew, who took this dramatic photo at California's Mono Lake, said 'over the space of about 90 minutes I photographed the unfolding scene, only just making it back to the safety of the car as the heavens opened'

Nick of time: Paul Andrew, who took this dramatic photo at California’s Mono Lake, said ‘over the space of about 90 minutes I photographed the unfolding scene, only just making it back to the safety of the car as the heavens opened’

Paula Davies says of her delicate feathery image, which was taken from a car windscreen in North Yorkshire: 'I was attracted by the colours resulting from the low early morning sun'

Paula Davies says of her delicate feathery image, which was taken from a car windscreen in North Yorkshire: ‘I was attracted by the colours resulting from the low early morning sun’

Another image from Camelia Czuchnicki, who explains: 'This low precipitation supercell formed late in the day over Broken Bow in  Nebraska in May 2013 - a stunning spectacle which we photographed for over an hour'

Another image from Camelia Czuchnicki, who explains: ‘This low precipitation supercell formed late in the day over Broken Bow in Nebraska in May 2013 – a stunning spectacle which we photographed for over an hour’

The Guanabura oil tanker being hit by lightning, taken by Graham Newman. He says: 'Shortly after taking the shot, the lightning cell closed on my position on the beach and I grabbed up my equipment and ran for my life'

The Guanabura oil tanker being hit by lightning, taken by Graham Newman. He says: ‘Shortly after taking the shot, the lightning cell closed on my position on the beach and I grabbed up my equipment and ran for my life’

Shrouded peak: Stephen Burt's Matterhorn Banner Cloud, taken in Switzerland on May 26, 2014, from the Gornergrat glacier

Shrouded peak: Stephen Burt’s Matterhorn Banner Cloud, taken in Switzerland on May 26, 2014, from the Gornergrat glacier

Ice sculpture on Plynlimon: Unbelievably, this hill resides in  Northern Ceredigion, Mid Wales. Photographer Allan Macdougall comments: 'This stile and wire fence became a thing of beauty with the glowing translucent fluting of the ice'

Ice sculpture on Plynlimon: Unbelievably, this hill resides in Northern Ceredigion, Mid Wales. Photographer Allan Macdougall comments: ‘This stile and wire fence became a thing of beauty with the glowing translucent fluting of the ice’

Photographer Mat Robinson reveals: 'This was  between Tadcaster and York, away from the A64, with the sweep of the road acting as a perfect guide for the eye towards the centre of the storm'

Photographer Mat Robinson reveals: ‘This was between Tadcaster and York, away from the A64, with the sweep of the road acting as a perfect guide for the eye towards the centre of the storm’

Apparition: Steve M Smith took this photo in North Wales. He says: 'On the hills we were shrouded until late morning when a clear way emerged along the ridge towards Foel Fras in the Carneddau'

Apparition: Steve M Smith took this photo in North Wales. He says: ‘On the hills we were shrouded until late morning when a clear way emerged along the ridge towards Foel Fras in the Carneddau’

Mat Robinson says of his shot: 'I live in Sheffield and each year I challenge myself to be the first Peak District photographer to catch the new snow - this was the third successful attempt'

Mat Robinson says of his shot: ‘I live in Sheffield and each year I challenge myself to be the first Peak District photographer to catch the new snow – this was the third successful attempt’

Other-worldly: Scientist Michal Krzysztofowicz, who works for the British Antarctic Survey  in Antarctica, says 'this solar phenomenon was caused by diamond dust, where ice particles  cause the light to refract into a halo'

Other-worldly: Scientist Michal Krzysztofowicz, who works for the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica, says ‘this solar phenomenon was caused by diamond dust, where ice particles cause the light to refract into a halo’

15 Places that Look Like they’re on Another Planet

We can’t help but fantasize about galaxies far, far away. Luckily, Earth is full of surreal and otherworldly places that are just a plane ride away—no warp speed required. Thanks to CN Traveler for some awesome shots.


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.

Lake Natron: Monduli, Tanzania

This salt lake sure is beautiful to look at, but its hellish 120-degree temperatures and dangerously low pH levels make it a less-than-ideal vacation spot. There is one major upside: The surplus of scarlet-hued algae attracts millions of flamingos, making the area one of the species’ major breeding grounds.

Glowworm Caves: Waitomo, New Zealand

Leave it to New Zealand to make even worms look beautiful. The Waitomo Caves hold thousands of bioluminescent larvae that leave long strings of mucus (sounds gross, looks dazzling) and glow like a subterranean Milky Way.

Namib Naukluft Park: Namibia

Red sand dunes and skeletal trees make Namibia the closest thing we have to Mars on Earth. (Getty)

Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China

Scenic might be an understatement: 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. It’s no wonder this site was a major inspiration for the world of Pandora in Avatar.

Hang Son Doong: Vietnam

Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, could hold an entire city block of Manhattan—including 40-story skyscrapers. It has its own lush vegetation where sunlight filters in from sinkholes above, and clouds even form near the ceiling when moisture condenses there. In other words, it’s practically its own little world lurking under the earth’s surface. (Alamy)

Jökulsárlón: Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

The glacial lake of Jökulsárlón and its frozen beach are considered a natural wonder of Iceland, with black volcanic sands providing a stark backdrop for the chunks of ice that wash ashore.

Socotra, Yemen

With UFO-like dragon’s blood trees as its most notable feature, the island of Socotra looks like it was transported to Earth from a distant planet. (Getty)

Grand Prismatic Spring: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

As its name suggests, the largest hot spring in the United States is essentially a rainbow ring of vibrant colors.

Dos Ojos: Tulum, Mexico

This cavernous cenote with double entry points—hence the moniker “Two Eyes”—is so incredible it was featured in the IMAX flick Journey Into Amazing Caves and an episode of Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth. It’s perfect for snorkelers, experienced scuba divers, and daredevils willing to surface in the system’s bat cave.

Dallol, Ethiopia

A kind of geological wonderland of salt formations, acidic hot springs, and gas geysers, this visually stunning hydrothermal field vies for the title of world’s hottest spot with average summer highs reportedly hitting up to 114F°.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

The 13,800-foot climb from Hilo’s beaches to the moonscape at the summit of Mauna Kea isn’t for the faint of heart. It is one of the longest sustained climbs on Earth, but it’s worth it to view the world as a land above the clouds.

Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley): Chile

Have you ever dreamed of exploring the moon? A trip to Valle de la Luna in Chile’s Atacama Desert is a much shorter flight. Years of erosion have left behind jagged peaks, dry riverbeds, and a landscape startlingly similar to that of our favorite celestial body’s.

Lencois Maranhenses National Park: Brazil

The geography of Brazil’s Lencois Maranhenses National Park is like nothing else on Earth. The rainy season (around early June) fills every trough with water and the world becomes an M. C. Escher print: It is either a drowned desert or a sandy lake, depending on how the mind’s eye frames what it is seeing.

White Desert: Farafra, Egypt

The landscape of the White Desert can be deceiving: What first appears to be a cool, snowy landscape is actually a mind-bendingly hot region of western Egypt. The desert is known for its wind-shaped chalk rock formations, which often resemble giant mushroom clouds frozen in time.

 

 

How to See the World as a Full-Time House Sitter

Lots of people ask me how I fund my trekking. Well the simple answer is by working here and there, blogging a fair bit and then odd bit of subtle but relevant affiliate marketing (as a friend puts it).

Vanessa Anderson and her partner Ian Usher are serial travellers too.  They discovered the service of house-sitting while in Panama and now fund their trekking lifestyle through this and English teaching.

Read her story and see what you think…

                                          Ned


It actually begins with Ian’s side of things back in 2006. Blindsided by the breakup of his own marriage, he devised a genius marketing idea to sell ALL his stuff on eBay—house and job (subject to acceptance) included! He then set off on a two-year journey to complete 100 bucket list goals in 100 weeks.

His unique method of dealing with a life crisis sparked the interest of Disney and before long he found himself with a Hollywood agent, resulting in a lucrative movie deal for his book, “A Life Sold”. This funded his next noteworthy project: to buy a small mangrove island and build an off-the-grid property in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Island Home in Bocas del Toro, Panama

This is where I come into the story.

Challenged by the failure of a long-term business and marriage, I had moved from Wales to start a superb new job in London. The next part of my life appeared to be unfolding nicely. Despite some difficult choices over the past year, I was feeling excited about the future.

In April 2013 Ian and I met through a mutual friend in London, when Ian was passing through on the way back to his Panamanian island home. We quickly realized we had a lot in common and swapped emails. Over a couple of months our emails progressed to long, late-night phone chats and it was soon obvious that I needed to organize a visit to Panama. I set off in July for a two week holiday that was to change the course of my life.

Ian and I immediately hit it off. Our life philosophies are aligned and our interests are mostly the same. It was like meeting the other half of me and finally finding the person who would share my crazy travel ideas, my dislike of conformity and my love of continual change.

After two weeks on the island it was an easy choice to remain in Panama with Ian. I was presented with an opportunity to live exactly as I had always wanted. If it went wrong, what was there really to lose? The worst that would happen is that I’d have to go back and start over.

Funding the lifestyle: house sitting and teaching.

Our foray into house sitting started naturally, as it’s an accepted method among the expats of Panama for keeping your home and pets protected during long absences. We’d used house sitters ourselves on the island whenever we left, and house sat occasionally for friends. So it was an easy transition to become international house sitters, as we moved on from Panama together.

After road-tripping and house sitting through the Southwest US, we made a more radical move to Shenzhen, China for a year, where we taught Chinese students in a private language school.

Ian in China with English students

Demand for good English teachers is high in China, so we were able to secure decent salaries and with the low cost of living, topped-off our travel funds. Plus, we got to experience a completely new culture. After we left China we continued to instruct part time online teachers; an unexpected development that has meant we now earn enough to fund our flights and food by working around 30-40 hours each per month.

As professional house and pet sitters, we rarely have to consider any accommodation expenses or utility bills. It’s taken a couple of years to perfect, but we now feel as if we have our ideal lifestyle mapped out for as long as we want.

All the experience and contacts we’ve made over the past few years through house sitting and nomadic communities has recently culminated in us acquiring “House Sitting – the ultimate lifestyle magazine.” It’s an online publication that has just been re-released as an Apple and Android app in support of the communities that have helped us. Subscription is free but we will be supplementing our residual income through subtle and relevant affiliate marketing.

Vanessa on Huashan Plank Walk in China

Exciting times lie ahead—but the question still remains: “Why do we live the way we do?”

Our answer is: simply because we can. And because we’ve actively crafted our lives to ensure maximum freedom! Being able to travel perpetually, and live and work nomadically, is liberating.

House sitting is the resource that allows this to happen. It provides free accommodation, free utilities, WiFi and often a vehicle as well. Without this, it would be impossible for us to fund our current lifestyle. We also enjoy being part of a trust-based sharing community that fosters a level of generosity that often doesn’t exist when a service is paid for. This is what we value and will continue to promote.

Learn more about Vanessa and Long Term House Sitting, and follow her on Facebook.

 

Source: Chris Guillebeau

Chris’s site is The Art of Non-Conformity, a home for remarkable people of all kinds. If yohttp://2.gravatar.com/avatar/88c47ce99eefcb2ea5f87c208b382b39?s=280&d=http%3A%2F%2Fchrisguillebeau.com%2Fwp-content%2Fthemes%2Fchrisguillebeau2014%2Fimg%2Fdefaultavatar.jpg&r=pgu’ve ever felt like there must be more to life, this site is for you. From 2002-2013 Chris visited every country in the world and wrote about it on his blog. He’s still travelling to more than 20 countries each year. Along the way he shares unconventional strategies and stories on Life, Work, and Travel.

 

Go out on a limb: Costa Rica’s best tree houses

Sleeping in a tree house is the best, maybe because it is something different, or maybe because the human subconscious understands that a few million years ago it was something normal. Even after our arboreal ancestors stopped living in trees, they still climbed up to sleep because it felt safe.

Lately a lot of places around the world are seeing renewed interest in tree houses, and Costa Rica – with its vast stretches of primary forest and ubiquitous, durable hardwoods – is no exception. These days, visitors are opting to sleep in tree houses not just because it’s awesome, but also because they care about forest conservation. When a tree generates more income standing than felled, people have incentive to keep it alive.

Lonely Planet‘s Ashley Harrell looks up to the canopies…

The tree house named El Castillo at Finca Bella Vista © Jeremy Papasso / Finca Bella Vista

The tree house named El Castillo at Finca Bellavista © Jeremy Papasso / Finca Bellavista

Wherever you happen to be traveling in Costa Rica, you will likely be near a tree house of some kind. There are tree house rentals, tree house hotels, tree house resort communities, tree house restaurants and even a tree hostel. A word of caution though – many internet advertisements for ‘tree houses’ are actually offering regular houses near trees or on stilts. What follows are our picks for the best real tree houses in Costa Rica, but do feel free to branch out.

Kickin’ it in the canopy

For a sense of what its like to live in a primary forest’s canopy, spend the night at Nature Observatorio (natureobservatorio.com) in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Getting there involves a 45-minute hike in the jungle, then an 80-foot climb up a rope ladder strung over an old growth Nispero tree. Owner Peter Garcar straps you into a harness for this feat, then sends up baskets with all your meals. The circular, two-level deck sleeps four, and guests often encounter all manner of other tree dwellers, including monkeys, toucans, iguanas and kinkajous. This all-inclusive experience runs for $160 per person.

The tree house at Nature Observatorio requires guests to ascend via rope and harness © Nature Observatorio

The tree house at Nature Observatorio requires guests to ascend via rope and harness © Nature Observatorio

Swiss Family (insert your last name here)

In Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean, an imaginative Dutchman taught himself architecture and created Tree House Lodge, a collection of whimsical vacation homes just steps from Playa Chiquita. Not all the homes are proper tree houses, but the eponymous ‘Tree House’ accommodation is. The first floor is built around a Sangrillo tree, and the second-story master bedroom is a proper tree room, with a hanging bridge for an entrance. The newest home on the property is also built around several trees and contains a mini-golf course in the living room. This place is amazing, and that’s why it costs $400 a night.

The first floor of the tree house at Tree House Lodge © Tree House Lodge

The first floor of the tree house at Tree House Lodge © Tree House Lodge

Because money doesn’t grow on trees

Arboreal accommodations are undeniably upper class, but there is one spot on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast where a stay in the trees doesn’t require too many greenbacks. Just a few years ago, the beloved Flutterby Hostel (flutterbyhouse.com) in Uvita constructed three treetop accommodations on its property, including two private rooms and the country’s first tree dormitory. The adorably decorated tree digs go for $50 or $60 a night and dorm beds are $18, which is not a whole lot more than an area dorm bed costs on the ground.

Elevate your palate

In downtown Santa Elena in northwestern Costa Rica, a quaint eatery appropriately dubbed Tree House Restaurant and Café is perched inside an enormous Ficus tree. Guests ascend a staircase up into the dining room and take their seats at tree trunk tables, and although the food is not particularly cheap, you really can’t beat the atmosphere. This is a fun option for families and a great spot for ice cream. Also, if you can’t get enough of being in trees around Monteverde, Hidden Canopy is a boutique stay offering five tree chalets just up the road from the restaurant. The over-sized beds are constructed out of tree roots, and the showers are waterfall-style.

A volcano reTREEt

Near the Arenal Volcano, in a 70-hectare wildlife refuge containing waterfalls, refreshing pools and a river, Tree Houses Hotel (treehouseshotelcostarica.com) offers seven adorable tree houses equipped with air conditioning, warm water showers and even refrigerators. Guests admire birds from rocking chairs on wrap-around decks and often receive monkey and toucan visitors. Prices are a moderate $99-175 a night for double occupancy, including breakfast, and there’s also an onsite spa.

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The comfortable interior of the tree house at Tree Houses Hotel © Tree Houses Hotel

A village in the trees

Costa Rica’s most ambitious tree house project is the 600-acre Finca Bellavista (fincabellavista.com), an upscale community of tree houses in the vicinity of Palmar Norte on the Osa Peninsula (the exact location is emailed to guests once they’ve booked). Like many vacation home communities, the houses are individually owned and rented out when unoccupied. Unlike many communities, residents and visitors can travel between homes on hanging bridges, and dinner is grown in a garden on the rainforest floor down below. The amenities in each house vary, but the highest end offerings have kitchens, electricity and running water. Prices start at $50 for a single occupancy, and range from $100 to $275 a night for two people, with a two-night minimum.

The best FREE tourist attractions around the world

It’s an old adage – the best things in life are free, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to some of the world’s most intriguing travel sights.

While most of the obvious tourist landmarks – the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal – charge entry fees, many of the lesser-known hidden gems around the corner don’t.

Did you know, for example, that you can visit an uninhabited island in the Bahamas where you can swim with wild pigs, and not be charged a penny?

Or take free yoga classes in Dubai, and sample the best tea in China at a cost of… zero?

Lonely Planet has released a veritable travel bible of spots around the world where you can have great experiences on a shoestring, titled The Best Things in Life are Free. MailOnline Travel rounds up 15 of the most intriguing suggestions… 

The Bahamas: Pig Island

On a small uninhabited island in the Exuma region of the Bahamas, wild pigs paddle freely around, and they don't charge you for joining them - although edible gifts are welcome

On a small uninhabited island in the Exuma region of the Bahamas, wild pigs paddle freely around, and they don’t charge you for joining them – although edible gifts are welcome

This is the only place in the Caribbean where you can splash around with celebrities and not have to pay a dime, because these stars have no idea they’re famous. An overnight Instagram sensation, the pigs of this island in Exuma live in the wild and love a spot of swimming.

According to legend they were left there by sailors who had plans to return for a pork roast, but never did, leaving the pigs to turn feral.

Thailand: The Bangkokian Museum

This quaint folk museum in Bangkok consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century

This quaint folk museum in Bangkok consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century

The tiny Bangkokian is a hidden jewel in a city where most of its treasures are proudly on display.

This quaint folk museum consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century.

It looks as if the owners stepped through the front door to pick up some noodles in 1935 and never came back.

China: The Măliándào Tea Market

Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled for free

Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled for free

If you’re someone who knows your pu-erh from your oolong, then you’ll get a kick from a trip to Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled.

It’s mainly aimed at wholesalers, but most vendors will give you a complimentary taste, and then you can sip plenty more brews in teashops.

You can get your hands on tea sets here as well, at potentially bargain prices.

Berlin: Badeschiff Swimming Barge

Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a barge-turned-swimming pool in the Spree River

Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a barge-turned-swimming pool in the Spree River

Summers in Berlin wouldn’t be the same without the Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a river barge-turned-swimming pool and moored in the Spree River. 

Splash around in the daytime and stay to sip sunset cocktails with a great view of the fairy-tale-like bridge, Oberbaumbrücke. In winter, Badeschiff is all covered up and turned into a toasty sauna-cum-bar.

Singapore: Gardens by the Bay

Time your visit to the Gardens by the Bay for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

Time your visit to the Gardens by the Bay for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

This eco-fantasy land of space age bio-domes, hi-tech trees and whimsical sculptures really has to be seen to be believed.

Although the indoor conservatories and Supertree-top skyway are chargeable, arguably the coolest thing to see here is free: time your visit for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

Dubai: Free yoga

The voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation runs free yoga classes every day at 13 locations around the UAE

The voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation runs free yoga classes every day at 13 locations around the UAE

The augmented reality of life in Dubai’s air-conditioned cityscape may just leave you in need of some mental readjustment.

If so, consider stretching out to the voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation, which runs free yoga classes every day at 5.30am and 7.30pm at 13 locations around the UAE, including Deira Creek, Bur Dubai Creek, Zabeel Park, JLT Park and Internet City.

Dublin: The National Museum of Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland is home for four million objects of archaeology, decorative arts and natural history

The National Museum of Ireland is home for four million objects of archaeology, decorative arts and natural history

This mighty museum explores Ireland’s heritage via four million objects spread across four sites, three of which are in Dublin.

Archaeology is where you’ll explore prehistoric and Viking-era Ireland, Decorative Arts & History houses ancient weaponry, furniture, and silver, and Natural History has an Irish elk skeleton.

London: The More London Free Festival

This annual series of free events at the South Bank of the River Thames comprises of everything from live music and fringe theatre to movie showings and kid's entertainment

This annual series of free events at the South Bank of the River Thames comprises of everything from live music and fringe theatre to movie showings and kid’s entertainment

This annual series of free events hijacks the South Bank of the River Thames for four months of summer action.

It comprises everything from live music and fringe theatre performances to children’s entertainment and screenings of flicks in the Scoop – a 1000-seat concrete amphitheatre near Tower Bridge.

The big screen on site broadcasts major sporting events such as Wimbledon and the Tour de France.

Marrakesh: Djemaa el-Fna square

The Djemaa el-Fna square, where you'll find street theatre, snake charming and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions

The Djemaa el-Fna square, where you’ll find street theatre, snake charming and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions

Think of it as live-action channel-surfing: everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna – Marrakesh’s main square and open-air theatre – you’ll discover drama already in progress.

Think street theatre, snake charming, and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’.

Sydney: The Sydney Harbour National Park

Most attractions at this 392-hectare national park that overlooks the Sydney Harbour will cost you nothing

Most attractions at this 392-hectare national park that overlooks the Sydney Harbour will cost you nothing

This 392-hectare park protects sections of Sydney’s foreshore and several islands within the harbour.

Most attractions are free, including the Bradleys Head amphitheatre, a popular lookout and a great picnic spot, and  the Grotto Point Aboriginal engraving site, where you can see old rock art.

New York: The Brooklyn Flea Market

At the Brooklyn Flea Market, you’ll find everything from records and 1930s posters to vintage clothing and antique collectables - and wandering round is free

At the Brooklyn Flea Market, you’ll find everything from records and 1930s posters to vintage clothing and antique collectables – and wandering round is free

When the weekend arrives, head to Brooklyn to experience one of the best markets in the whole city. More than 100 vendors ply their wares here, with plenty of treasures to ogle from the past and the present.

You’ll find everything from records to 1930s posters, vintage clothing, jewellery, homewares, artwork, antique collectables and craft items. Wandering round is free.

Check the website for locations, which change seasonally. Visit brooklynflea.com.

Paris: Château de Versailles’ Gardens

These spectacular gardens are divine, not as packed as the château itself,  and free for half the year

These spectacular gardens are divine, not as packed as the château itself, and free for half the year

While the château at Versailles is truly extraordinary, the crush of people inside can be hard to bear.

But the landscaped gardens – meticulously manicured, dotted with elegant statuary and exuberant fountains, and criss-crossed with paths (bikes can be rented) – are divine and free for half the year between November and March. Pack a picnic and distance those madding crowds.

Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach, where you can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching

Ipanema Beach, where you can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching

One of the best places to spend a sun-drenched day in Rio is out on Ipanema Beach. You can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching.

You also needn’t leave the sands when hunger strikes, but you will need to open your wallet.

Barracas (beach stalls) sell everything from super cheap sandwiches to caipirinhas, and wandering vendors bring by cold drinks and snacks.

Tokyo: Yoyogi Park

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather to Tokyo's Yoyogi Park for picnics, Frisbee, drumming, dancing and free festivals

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather to Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park for picnics, Frisbee, drumming, dancing and free festivals

Of all Tokyo’s parks, this is arguably the most lively. The landscaping is haphazard, wild along the fringes, and there are no ‘keep off the grass’ signs here.

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather for picnics, Frisbee, drumming and dancing.

The plaza across the street hosts free festivals on weekends during summer, including many hosted by the city’s ethnic communities.

You can read more at http://www.lonelyplanet.com/

Too Many Places: Overcoming the Paradox of Choice

One of my fave travel bloggers, Nomadic Matt, recently posted this piece and it struck a chord as I was pondering where to go in September. Check out what he advises…  – Nick


A man staring out of an airport window looking at airplanes

“Where should I go?” is a question I frequently ask myself.

Wanting to escape the oppressive summer heat of Austin in August, I’ve spent the last few months staring at a map, unable answer that very question. I toyed with the idea of heading to Madagascar, Hawaii, Malta, Kenya, the Caribbean, the Maldives, Dubai, or Sri Lanka.

And, because I couldn’t choose and was so afraid to commit, it wasn’t until this week I finally decided — just weeks before I wanted to go. (More on that later.)

Why?

I was suffering from what psychologists call “choice overload.”

Whether we have two weeks, two months, or two years, deciding where to go is the hardest part about travel. Once you have the time, picking the destination becomes a task of whittling down a long list of “must-see” destinations.

When people are faced with too many options, they are sometimes so paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong choice that they don’t make any choice.

Think of standing in the cereal aisle. We have all these options right in front of us, but we keep going back to our old favorite, Fruity Pebbles. (Or, Cinnamon Toast Crunch if we’re feeling crazy!)

We may want to try something new, but we can’t figure out what we want the most — there are just too many options! How do we choose? How do we know we won’t make the wrong choice? So, paralyzed with indecision, we go back to what we know. And, if we don’t have a favorite, often we just choose what is popular and familiar to our mind (Cheerios).

In psychology, this is called “analysis paralysis.” Contemplating our options becomes such a taxing mental burden that we don’t make a decision. Our minds want shortcuts. It’s how we process all the information thrown at us each day. It’s too difficult to think about every simple decision all the time. Going with what you know and is familiar is how we shortcut our analysis paralysis. (This is all explained in the 2004 book The Paradox of Choice, which I highly recommend reading!)

Think of the world as the proverbial cereal aisle. We’re looking forward to picking a cereal (a destination), but suddenly realize we have too many options. Faced with so many choices and without a strong opinion (e.g., I really want to go to Thailand this fall!), we stare blankly, wondering if picking a destination is the right choice, so we end up (a) fretting about it for months like I did, missing flight deals and precious planning time or (b) end up with what is big, popular, and familiar (let’s visit Paris for the tenth time!).

I often get so paralyzed by choice that I don’t book a trip until the last minute, and even then, I often suffer from buyer’s remorse. Did I really want to book that flight to Dubai? Or should I have gone to Madagascar instead? If I do this trip, will I have time to visit Peru later this year, or should I just go to Peru now?

Last week, after months of fretting, I finally bit the bullet and booked tickets to Dubai, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. I’m beyond thrilled (especially for Sri Lanka) but in the back of my mind I still find myself thinking, “Is 15 days really enough to enjoy Sri Lanka? Maybe I should go somewhere else until I can spend more time there!”

Of course, when I get to the destination — any destination — all of that second-guessing melts away and I have the time of my life.

If you’re a long-term traveler, you can go anywhere for as long as you want. But when you only have a limited amount of time — because you’re like me and slowing down, or because you just have a few weeks off from work and need to make the most of them — you have to be more selective.

So how do you narrow down your destinations, get on with your trip planning, and not suffer the anxiety that comes with choice overload?

This experience has given me a new philosophy on trip planning. I’ve changed how I decide on destinations:

First, embrace the variety. You’re always going to be overwhelmed by choice. There will always be more destinations to visit than you have time to see. The list of places to visit will only get longer the more you travel, not shorter. Don’t fight it. Recognize it, but don’t let it control you.

Second, start with list of ten places you want to go right now. Come up with the destinations that are at the top of your mind. This year, now that I am taking fewer trips, I want my trips to be to places I’ve never been and are as culturally different as possible, so I came up with the list at the top of this blog (yes, I know not all of the places are culturally different from each other!).

Third, figure out when you can go and how long you have. For me, since I was only going in August, I knew I had exactly a month (since I have to be stateside for weddings in September and October).

Fourth, think of the time of year. Which country has the weather you want to enjoy the most? I’m trying to escape the heat of inland Austin, so I wanted beaches. I crossed Hawaii and the Caribbean off the list, but I still wanted something beachy and adventurous. The Maldives and Sri Lanka may be hot, but they have beaches!

Fifth, make the length of your travels proportional to the size of the country. I didn’t want to attempt to visit large countries like India, Brazil, or China when I have just a few weeks. I wanted to see smaller destinations that I could explore more in depth during a shorter period of time. By this point I knew I was down to using Dubai as a hub and finding destinations from there.

Finally, look up flights. From Dubai, it was $1,700 USD to Madagascar but $400 to the Maldives, and $0 to get to and from Sri Lanka, thanks to airline miles. I didn’t have enough points to fly on the African carriers I wanted (I burned 100K United points last month on other flights — whoops!) so Madagascar and Kenya were out of the question. That left the Maldives and Sri Lanka as the best places to visit from Dubai.

And, with that, where I’m going was settled.

Once I stopped letting too much choice keep me from making a decision and after logically going through my checklist, I stopped hemming and hawing about where I wanted to go, found my destinations, booked my trip, and got on with getting excited about visiting new places.

Overcoming choice overload in travel is about first realizing that there will always be more places to visit than you have time, then figuring out what destinations fit what you can do right now. Once you start with your list of destinations, getting down to the perfect one becomes a process of elimination.

I know many of you suffer from the same problem I do (your emails to me are proof), and I hope you use this advice to overcome choice overload.

Because there will always be too many destinations to choose from and too little time to see them in.


Rio Celeste Falls

Rio Celeste Falls

Nomadic Matt is author of the New York Times best-selling book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. He’s been travelling the world since 2006 and created his website to help others travel more while spending less. Growing up in Boston, he says: “I was never a big traveler. I didn’t take my first trip overseas until I was 23. Outside a cruise and college trip to Montreal, I had no travel experience. After college, I got a job and the standard American two weeks a year vacation. I wanted to use that time to travel. After all, it was vacation time, right? So for my first trip overseas, I went on a tour to Costa Rica. That trip changed my life. It opened me up to the possibilities of the world. I was just a sheltered middle class suburban kid before that trip.

In Costa Rica, I experienced other cultures, got lost in a jungle, saw real poverty, conservation projects in action, and met people from around the world. From that moment on, I was hooked in travel. All I wanted to do was travel, see more of the world, and learn more about the people in it. But like most Americans I only had two weeks of vacation per year and I didn’t know any of the genius ways to save money and travel longer.”

You can find Matt on http://www.nomadicmatt.com/

 

The world’s most unusual places to stay

An underwater hotel room, a suite on the side of the cliff and a tree house with the best view of the sea: MailOnline Travel reveals some gorgeously quirky places to lay your hat for a night or two.


For many holidaymakers, there is nothing more important than a room with a spectacular view.

It could be a plush suite in a skyscraper hotel, a treehouse in the middle of nowhere or even a room beneath the surface of the sea. 

In an age where tourists are on the hunt for snaps that are worthy of Instagram or Facebook, the more unique it is, the better.

These jaw-dropping destinations have been named the most unusual places to stay by London-based travel agency Exsus.

They include Africa’s first underwater hotel room – 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar – where guests can admire marine life from the comfort of their bed.

And for adrenaline junkies, only the Natura Vive Skylodge Adventure Suite will do. Guests must climb a 400ft cliff face to reach the suite, which is on the side of one of Peru’s highest peaks.

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The best for sleeping with the fishes: Manta Resort on Pemba Island

Africa’s first underwater hotel room is 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar

Africa’s first underwater hotel room is 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar

Visit http://www.themantaresort.com/information/pemba-island/

The best for daredevils: Natura Vive’s Skylodge Adventure Suite

To climb into Natura Vive's Skylodge Adventure Suite in Peru, daredevil guests must scale a 400ft cliff face

To climb into Natura Vive’s Skylodge Adventure Suite in Peru, daredevil guests must scale a 400ft cliff face

Check out http://naturavive.com/web/

The best for getting back to nature: Phinda Forest Lodge

Guests can spot the big five, dolphins and turtles at this lodge at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa

Guests can spot the big five, dolphins and turtles at this lodge at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa

Visit www.phindagamereserve.com/

The best for sleeping in a cave: Gamirasu Cave Hotel

Located near Urgup, Turkey, some of the 35-room hotel's doors and windows are more than 500 years old

Located near Urgup, Turkey, some of the 35-room hotel’s doors and windows are more than 500 years old

Take a look at this Trip Advisor winner: http://www.gamirasu.com/https://static.tacdn.com/img2/tc/rdTopLaurel_LL_TM.jpg

The best for watching the Northern Lights: Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel

Less than an hour from Reykjavík, guests can watch the natural phenomenon from a heated outdoor pool

Less than an hour from Reykjavík, guests can watch the natural phenomenon from a heated outdoor pool

Check out this multi-award-winning hotel’s site: http://ioniceland.is/

The best for adventure seekers: Fogo Island Inn

This contemporary hotel is located on rocky terrain on Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada

This contemporary hotel is located on rocky terrain on Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada

For lots of information on this highly unusual destination visit www.fogoislandinn.ca/

The best for waking up on a boat: Belmond Road to Mandalay

Belmond's Road to Mandalay takes up to 82 passengers on a luxurious river cruise in Myanmar

Belmond’s Road to Mandalay takes up to 82 passengers on a luxurious river cruise in Myanmar

Check out http://www.belmond.com/road-to-mandalay-myanmar/

The best for sleeping in a tree: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses

These houses are 30ft above ground with views of dramatic mountains and the Pacific coast in New Zealand

These houses are 30ft above ground with views of dramatic mountains and the Pacific coast in New Zealand

For more info on this unique accommodation visit http://www.hapukulodge.com/kaikoura/tree-houses

The best for an alternative caravan: Uyuni Vintage Airstreams

This deluxe caravan on Bolivia's Uyuni Salt Flats comes with a private chef and guide to show you around

This deluxe caravan on Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats comes with a private chef and guide to show you around

To find out more about these über-cool Airstreams check out http://www.exsus.com/destinations/south-america/bolivia/uyuni-salt-flats/uyuni-vintage-airstreams

 

And for even more exciting and unusual trips visit the team at Exsus.

 

 

 

 

5 Places You Should Visit Before They Vanish

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.

Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, and Lake Sherburne. Montana. USA. Numerous glaciers are visible in this image.

Ed Reschke

Venice, Italy

Beautiful view of famous Grand Canal in Venice, ItalyiSailorr/Getty

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

Back side of the ruins of Machu Picchu and the mountain of Huayna Picchu. HDR image.Getty Images/Vetta

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.

Madagascar, Africa

Sunrise over Avenue of the baobabs, MadagascarGetty Images/iStockphoto

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

Scenic view of Glacier National Park.Jordan Siemens/Getty

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

The Great Barrier Reef is the worlds largest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching forGetty Images/Vetta

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.

 

The Best Places to Visit in July

(So say the dudes at CN Traveler)


It’s the season for safaris in Botswana, whale shark swimming in Mexico, and memorable (and monumental) cultural events from Pamplona to St. Petersburg. These are the best places to visit in July, year after year.

Botswana’s Okavango Delta

The best months for going on a boat safari in the Okavango Delta are May through August, when water levels are at their highest and elephants, giraffes, leopards, and countless birds are most active. Camps like Duba Expedition arrange game “drives” by motorboat—and are all the more luxurious for being in the middle of nowhere.

visit-july-okavanga-delta-GettyImages-468023423

Getty

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Whale shark season runs from June through September, so if you’ve ever dreamed of swimming with the world’s largest fish, plan a trip to the Riviera Maya now.

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Getty

Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Yes, this is the busiest time of year in the national parks, but for good reason: The snow should finally be melted (or melting), filling Yellowstone and Grand Teton’s rivers for prime-time fly fishing, and bison should be on the move in late July.

Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

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Pamplona, Spain

For many, the fiesta of San Fermín (July 6–14 annually) can be summed up as the Running of the Bulls—a lifelong dream for some, a bullish (pun!) nightmare for others—through the old quarter of Pamplona. But the fest itself is a nine-day street party, starting with thousands filling City Hall Square for the inaugural chupinazo (rocket launch), and followed later in the week by a procession of 10- to 12-foot-tall papier-mâché figures—the “big heads” of big-deal people on parade.

Pamplona, Spain

Getty

St. Petersburg, Russia

The White Nights of St. Petersburg, Russia—those everlasting days when the sun lingers past midnight—begin in May, but it’s the final weeks in July, when fireworks fill the sky and the Stars of the White Nights (ballet and opera at Mariinksy Theatre, concerts, and more) finish their run when you’ll find us there.

St. Petersburg, Russia

Alamy

Mount Naeba, Japan

Japan’s three-day Fuji Rock Festival draws some 100,000 fans to the Naeba Ski Resort each July, along with big-deal bands and musicians like Wilco, Beck, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sigur Ros, and Ben Harper. It’s a three-day party in one of the most dramatic settings we can imagine for a guitar solo.

Mount Naeba, Japan

Getty

Salzburg, Austria

From late July through August, Salzburg honors its heritage with a grand classical celebration: The Salzburg Festival delivers everything from Mozart to modern chamber music, The Tempest to Don Giovanni.

Salzburg, Austria

Getty

 

 

The 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Where are your top trek destinations?

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, Turkey

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).

Snæfellsjökull: Iceland

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.

Palawan Island: The Philippines

With its limestone cliffs and pristine lagoons, it’s easy to see why Palawan was voted the best island in the world by our readers.

Venice, Italy

Of all the amazing cities in Italy, there is something truly enchanting about the sunlit canals of Venice.

Ashikaga Flower Park: Ashikaga, Japan

Ashikaga’s wisteria trees bloom brilliantly for a few weeks every spring, turning the park into a vision of pastel pinks and purples.

Brecon Beacons National Park: Wales

Brecon Beacons offers access to rolling hills, Medieval castles, and romantic waterfalls. Plus it’s arguably the best place to stargaze in the UK.

Namib Desert: Namibia

Red sand dunes and skeletal trees make Namibia the closest thing we have to Mars on Earth. The Namib Desert was also the filming location for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Milford Sound: New Zealand

New Zealand is no stranger to breathtaking landscapes. Case in point: Milford Sound, a mountainous fjord where you can live out all of your Lord of the Rings fantasies.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate: Munnar, India

Situated more than 8,000 feet above sea level, Kolukkumalai is the highest tea estate in the world—and easily the most beautiful.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Although the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has only been around for less than a decade, its regal architecture has already made it the crown jewel of Abu Dhabi—and one of the largest mosques in the world.

Bryce Canyon: Bryce, Utah

Bryce Canyon’s layered red and orange rock pillars, known as hoodoos, make it a can’t-miss destination for campers and shutterbugs alike.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

You might know them better as the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride, but this seaside wonder is actually located just south of Galway. Inconceivable!

Pyramids of Giza: El Giza, Egypt

Giza’s three great pyramids are mysterious marvels of architecture. We may never know whether or not they were built by mutants.

Okavango Delta: Botswana

The lush Okavango Delta is like a real-world Eden, where cheetahs, zebras, buffalo, and rhinos roam freely.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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A striking natural setting makes Rio de Janeiro one of the most beautiful cities in the world, all overlooked by the equally stunning Christ the Redeemer statue.

Arashiyama: Kyoto, Japan

The serene beauty of the bamboo forest in the Arashiyama district is a wonderful site to behold. No wonder it’s one of Pinterest’s most beloved places.

Grand Prismatic Spring: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

As its name suggests, the largest hot spring in the United States is essentially a rainbow ring of vibrant colors.

Serengeti National Park: Tanzania

Tanzania’s portion of the Serengeti is the ideal location for an African adventure.

Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona, USA

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.

The Arctic Circle

Whether you’re spotting the Northern Lights in Sweden or glaciers off the coast of Greenland, the Arctic Circle is a new kind of hidden paradise.

Great Wall of China: Beijing, China

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.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

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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.

Galápagos Islands: Ecuador

This volcanic archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is world-renowned for its idyllic snorkeling spots and diverse array of wildlife (including the always delightful blue-footed boobies, pictured).

Petra, Jordan

The ancient city of Petra may be renowned for the buildings carved directly into the sides of cliffs, but its real claim to fame is being the (fictional) home of the Holy Grail.

Ned’s tip: For the best of the best in Jordan, pamper yourself at the 5 star Hotel Le Royal – Amman.

Keukenhof Park, Holland: The Netherlands

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, Yemen

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.

Lavender fields: Provence, France

The seemingly endless stretches of lavender fields make Provence one of the prettiest (and best-smelling) places in France.

Oia: Santorini, Greece

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

The Best Hikes in the World

Conde Nast Traveler have rounded up 13 of the best hiking trails around the world perfect for your next adventure. Time to lace up your boots and hit the trail…

(All the beautiful images are from Getty.)


West Coast Trail

The 47-mile West Coast Trail was created in 1906 to save shipwreck survivors along the rocky west coast of Vancouver Island. Now, the trail, open for hiking May 1 through September 30, is so popular it even has its own reservation system.

Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau Trail is the only way to access this rugged section of Kauai‘s coastline. Those who make the 11-mile hike are rewarded with access to the secluded Kalalau Beach.

Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc covers more than 100 miles and passes through three countries: Switzerland, Italy, and France. (The circuit is also home to the ultra-marathon event, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, where the winner usually finishes in about 20 hours.)

Sentiero Azzuro

Everyone knows Cinque Terre for its stunning views and quaint seaside villages, but it’s also home to the Sentiero Azzuro (or literally “Blue Trail”) that connects the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.

Appalachian Trail

The 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia all the way to Maine, crossing through 14 states. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (pictured here) is home to 71 miles of trail.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Even though it’s more than 19,000-feet tall, Mount Kilimanjaro is billed as the “world’s tallest walkable mountain,” and with good reason—the peak requires no technical mountaineering skills to summit.

Torres del Paine

Chile’s Torres del Paine might be one of the world’s most popular trekking destinations, but it still earns a spot on our list for its icy glaciers, snow-covered mountains, crystalline lakes, and beautiful valleys. The ultra-ambitious can hike the Full Circuit—crossing the entire park—in nine days.

Bibbulmun Track

The Bibbulmun Track stretches for more than 600 miles along Western Australia‘s coast. The track, known for its mellow terrain, is particularly beautiful during autumn.

The Narrows

The Narrows trail follows the Virgin River for 16 miles through southwestern Utah’s breathtaking Zion Canyon. You’ll get wet, sure, but we think you’ll agree—it’s worth it.

El Choro Inca Trail

While Machu Picchu Inca Trail gets most of the glory in South America, savvy travelers have started seeking out less-touristed routes. The four-day El Choro trek traverses a 15,000-foot pass.

Santa Cruz Trek

The 30-mile Santa Cruz trek is one of the most popular routes in the Peruvian Andes. Beginning in the charming Peruvian town of Huaraz, the trek crosses the 15,580-foot Punta Union Pass.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

The Tongariro Northern Circuit encircles Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand’s most active volcano. In addition to craters and lava pits, hikers can also take in the scenic Emerald Lakes.

Israel National Trail

The Israel National Trail winds its way 600 miles across Israel, from the Lebanese border all the way to the Red Sea in the south, passing through ancient Roman ruins (pictured) and Judean Mountains in the process.

 

The hauntingly beautiful abandoned buildings where time stands still

Eerie pictures taken by a French photographer showing decaying kitchens, derelict churches and stately manors being reclaimed by nature, have been stunningly captured in a beautiful Daily Mail Travel article I just had to include.   – Ned


These eerily beautiful images of abandoned places are the work of a fearless photographer who is travelling the world to capture stunning scenes inside derelict buildings. 

Romain Veillon, from Paris, has travelled across Europe and to countries in Africa and South America to photograph derelict buildings: everything from decaying houses, and decommissioned trains to abandoned casinos and empty prisons. The 32-year-old Parisian’s mesmerising pictures are featured in his first hardcover book, called Ask the Dust.

The urban explorer said he has been impressed by derelict places since he was a child, when he played in abandoned buildings near his grandparents’ houses.

Veillon told MailOnline Travel: ‘I always loved to go there and try to imagine what could have been their stories and how people used to live and work there.

‘With time I decided to try to capture the spirit and timeless atmosphere we can experience there, to show how time has stopped there and how decay and nature slowly take back possession of it.’

Veillon’s photos are featured in his first hardcover book, called Ask the Dust, and he hopes to visit abandoned buildings in Asia soon to add to his collection. He is highly secretive when it comes to the buildings he has photographed, choosing not to reveal most of the exact locations because he fears they would be ‘trashed’ by vandals.

Romain Veillon, from Paris, has travelled around the world to take photos of abandoned buildings, including this house in Belgium

Romain Veillon, from Paris, has travelled around the world to take photos of abandoned buildings, including this house in Belgium

The 32-year-old urban explorer snapped this image of a staircase in a crumbling building during his travels through Portugal

The 32-year-old urban explorer snapped this image of a staircase in a crumbling building during his travels through Portugal

While he visited Poland, Veillon toured an abandoned building where he took this photo of a dusty piano that has partially toppled over

While he visited Poland, Veillon toured an abandoned building where he took this photo of a dusty piano that has partially toppled over

In this old home in France, the ceiling and walls have started to fall apart and cave in, leaving debris all over the beds and floor 

In this old home in France, the ceiling and walls have started to fall apart and cave in, leaving debris all over the beds and floor

Veillon snapped photos of several abandoned buildings when he visited Romania, including this church that no longer has a roof

Veillon snapped photos of several abandoned buildings when he visited Romania, including this church that no longer has a roof

Although most of his photos were taken in European countries, Veillon has visited Namibia and Argentina (pictured: an estate in Italy)

Although most of his photos were taken in European countries, Veillon has visited Namibia and Argentina (pictured: an estate in Italy)

Although some visitors might find it creepy, this abandoned church in France was a peaceful location to photograph, said Veillon

Although some visitors might find it creepy, this abandoned church in France was a peaceful location to photograph, said Veillon

Impressive paintings adorn the crumbling walls of this property in Italy. Veillon prefers not to disclose the exact location of his photos

Impressive paintings adorn the crumbling walls of this property in Italy. Veillon prefers not to disclose the exact location of his photos

Veillon said he chooses to keep the locations a secret so they aren't ruined by vandals (pictured: a grand estate in France)

Veillon said he chooses to keep the locations a secret so they aren’t ruined by vandals (pictured: a grand estate in France)

Once a stately manor, this abandoned property in Scotland - with a fireplace and wood-panelled walls - has been reclaimed by nature

Once a stately manor, this abandoned property in Scotland – with a fireplace and wood-panelled walls – has been reclaimed by nature

Many of Veillon's photos have been taken in France, including this one at an abandoned building that is being overtaken by vines

Many of Veillon’s photos have been taken in France, including this one at an abandoned building that is being overtaken by vines

An old pram and wardrobe were left behind in this decaying house, which was photographed by Veillon during his time in Italy

An old pram and wardrobe were left behind in this decaying house, which was photographed by Veillon during his time in Italy

Veillon took this shot when he visited the derelict amphitheatre at the UFO-shaped Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria

Veillon took this shot when he visited the derelict amphitheatre at the UFO-shaped Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria

Veillon's work includes everything from photos of this abandoned house in Italy to decommissioned trains and a derelict casino 

Veillon’s work includes everything from photos of this abandoned house in Italy to decommissioned trains and a derelict casino

Vegetation has taken over this abandoned conservatory at a property in Belgium. Veillon's new book is called Ask the Dust

Vegetation has taken over this abandoned conservatory at a property in Belgium. Veillon’s new book is called Ask the Dust

10 Places Telling Tourists to Stay Home

Tourism can provide an incredible economic boost, sure, but some locales say it can also be harmful to the environment and negatively impact local populations. With such considerations in mind, several destinations around the world have proposed—or put into place—measures restricting the annual number of visitors.  Thanks to CN Traveler for this info.


Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

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A picturesque group of five villages along the Ligurian Sea, Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most popular sites. Italian officials, however, have recently announced their plans to cap the number of people who are allowed to visit, citing environmental concerns. Though 2.5 million travelers visited Cinque Terre in 2015, the number will be restricted to 1.5 million per year going forward.

Barcelona

Barcelona Gaudi

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Barcelona mayor Ada Colau made headlines in June 2015 when she discussed implementing an entry cap on the Spanish city. In order to keep Barcelona from reaching its “saturation limit,” Colau’s administration is developing plans to balance the tourism sector’s interests with those of local residents; potentially putting a city-wide freeze on the development of new hotels and creating a preventative policy before things “get out of hand.”

Bhutan

Himalayas Bhutan

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High on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan prides itself on “low volume, high-value” tourism. All foreign visitors—except those holding Indian, Maldivian, or Bangladeshi passports—must get a visa and book their holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. Visitors must also pay, in advance, the “minimum daily package” (either $200 or $250 a day, depending on the month) set by the Royal Government of Bhutan, via money transfer to the Tourism Council of Bhutan. This fee covers your accommodation, all meals, guides, internal transport, and a sustainable tourism royalty that goes toward free education, health care, and poverty alleviation. Only 133,480 international and regional tourists visited Bhutan in 2014.

Iceland

Iceland's beauty

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Roughly 970,000 people visited Iceland in 2014—three times the country’s population, and a 24 percent increase over 2013. The trend continues: As of May 2015, the number of visitors had increased 76 percent over the same period in 2014. Currently, the Icelandic Tourist Board and the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre are researching how “full” a site can get before detracting from the experience. “We have to realize that we can’t just build up natural sites endlessly,” Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, director general of the Icelandic Tourist Board, said in 2014. “We can’t just endlessly receive more and more people at any particular tourist site and live under the assumption that we are offering the type of experience that people have paid for.”

Galápagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

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Some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, these 19 islands—which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution—host approximately 9,000 species on land and in their surrounding waters. By 2007, residents and tourists had put such a burden on the ecosystems that the United Nations listed the destination as an endangered heritage site. Today, 97 percent of the land area is designated as part of the national park, and tourism is carefully monitored so that there is no further impact on the islands’ health or wildlife. Tourists can only travel to specific visitor sites, and must adhere to these 14 rules, including accompaniment by a licensed Galápagos National Park Guide. The U.N. removed the Galápagos from its “in danger” list in 2010.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

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Although visitors were once allowed to wander this 15th-century site freely, new measures encouraged by UNESCO are intended to clamp down on the number of tourists visiting one of Peru’s premier destinations. As part of a $43.7-million reconceptualization expected to be completed by 2019, all foreign visitors will have to hire a guide, follow one of three designated routes through the complex, and be subjected to time limits in order to prevent bottlenecking. In 2014, some 1.2 million tourists visited the 12-acre Incan citadel, surpassing the daily limit of 2,500 agreed to by Peru and UNESCO. The ancient site was added to UNESCO’s “endangered” list in January 2016.

Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island

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Located 370 miles off mainland Australia, this seven-square-mile island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982 for its rare flora, fauna, and marine life. In surrounding waters, there are more than 400 species of fish and 90 species of coral. Also considered one of the cleanest places on Earth, approximately 75 percent of the island’s original vegetation remains undisturbed. With just 350 full-time residents and a limit of 400 visitors on the island at any given time, there are ample spaces to call your own.

Antarctica

Antarctica

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By 2009, a surge in visits led to a ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. Among other things, signatories agreed to barring cruise ships with more than 500 passengers from landing sites; restricting landings to one vessel at a time (per site); and limiting passengers on shore to 100 at a time. Today, visitors to the pristine environment must travel through operators and organizers who have been approved by their appropriate national authorities, and can expect that their time—whether on shore or simply sailing by—will be strictly monitored.

The Seychelles

Seychelles

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An archipelago of 115 islands off the East African coast, the Seychelles have become massively popular for both “regular” tourists and royalty—yes, this is where William and Kate spent their honeymoon. Though tourism is the Seychelles’ biggest industry, its minister of tourism and culture, Alain St. Ange, said in April 2015 that work is underway to curb the number of annual visitors in order to protect its future. “We don’t want to demean the value of the Seychelles. We’re reaching 250,000 people, six times the number of people who live there.”

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

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With mounting calls to reduce the number of teams and climbers attempting to summit the world’s highest peak, the Nepalese government had taken steps in the right direction before the 2015 climbing season was officially shuttered following the Nepal earthquake. Among the measures were an increased fee for foreign climbers from $10,000 to $11,000, and the establishment of a liaison office at base camp to verify experience, health, and climbing conditions. Next up? An emphasis on forming smaller climbing teams so that “traffic jams” up the routes can be avoided.

 

 

Discover the New 7 Wonders of the World

Love travelling but sometimes worry you’ve missed something?

In 2001 the Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation was established by a Swiss-born Canadian filmmaker, author and all-round adventurer named Bernard Weber. The purpose of this independent project was to contribute to the protection of the world’s man-made and natural heritage whilst promoting respect for earth’s beauty and diversity.

Although there have been many collations of ‘wonders of the world’, as a non-government funded initiative, New7Wonders is supported by licensing and commercial partnerships only and, to date, reports generating over US$5 billion worth of economic, tourism and national promotional value for the locations participating in its campaigns. Of this sizeable income, New7Wonders has pledged to dedicate 50% of surplus net revenue to the main New7Wonders Foundation cause – Global Memory, the documentation and 3D virtual recording of all New7Wonders.

The New7Wonders began by enlisting a panel of experts whose job it would be to generate a shortlist of 21 sites from 77 nominated by people from around the world. The 21 finalists were then put to public vote and the official winners of the New7Wonders of the World were eventually decided in 2007 by more than 100million votes – the criteria being that the sites should ‘represent global heritage throughout history’.

How many of these modern wonders of the world can you tick off your travel list?

This article courtesy of Holly Wadsworth-Hill for Mail Travel


Taj Mahal, India

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Located in Agra, also known as India’s ‘City of Love’.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of the New7Wonders of the World and a regular on the prescribed bucket-lists of many a qualified travel-writer. The exquisite white marble masterpiece that is the Taj Mahal more than earns its place as a must-see tourist attraction for many reasons.
The result of a beautiful love story, the Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world and its history has charmed generation after generation.
Built by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in 1631, in memory of his loyal wife and soul mate Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is shrouded in fable – even its architect remains unknown, and yet it remains completely unforgettable for anyone who has the pleasure of visiting it.

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Jordan’s fascinating story starts at the dawn of recorded history where ‘hunter-gatherer’ man learned to farm. Permanent settlements developed with the inhabitants fast becoming traders of gold, silks and spices between the sophisticated civilisations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. During biblical times, it was on Mt Nebo, overlooking the River Jordan that Moses first saw the ‘Promised Land’. The Persians then arrived, whilst Alexander the Great and his descendants ruled for 300 years, after which it became one of the Roman Empire’s richest and most fought-over provinces, before being incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

Petra, the famous Treasury carved into the cliff, was once the magnificent capital of the Nabataean empire of King Aretas IV and is considered the jewel of Jordan. Architecturally fascinating, this ancient site is half built and half carved into the rocks – its maze of passages and hidden gorges, coupled with the fact that it has been inhabited since prehistoric times, make Petra a historians, and the inquisitive traveller’s, dream destination. Petra will take your breath away.

Check out other places to visit in Jordan here http://www.leroyal.com/giftcard/amman/attractionsdetails.asp?parCountry=1

Colosseum, Italy

Rome
The Colosseum is at the heart of the ‘Eternal City’ of Rome and has become an iconic part of Italy’s tourist industry.

Commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian, the Colosseum was eventually finished by his son, Titus, with latter enhancements by Domitian. One of the earliest and longest surviving examples of the Italian aptitude to combine splendour with pragmatism, the Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian amphitheatre and was designed to hold 55,000 spectators. With its bloody history and unimaginable size, the Colosseum is not only considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering of all time, it is also completely enthralling.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza, Mexico

An obvious addition the magnificent 7 if you ask us. So much is known and so much has been lost of the ancient Mayan civilisation that Chichen Itza continues to enthral modern day scholars and historians – not to mention your average holidaymaker looking for something different. Chichen Itza means ‘at the mouth of the well of the Itza’ and is a Mayan City on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, between Valladolid and Merida. The Maya were accomplished mathematicians and scientists with a sophisticated and established society, housing the recorded Maya and Toltec ideas of the world and the universe, Chichen Itza is an invaluable fragment of history that draws people from all around the world. It is not known why, in the 1400s, people fled Chichen Itza for the jungle, but what they left behind is a history lesson that one will never forget.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

The famous ruins of Machu Picchu, a 15th Century Inca site rising 7,000 ft above sea level, are nestled in and somewhat hidden on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley. A fairly recent geographical find, Machu Picchu was not discovered until 1911 and, although archaeologists have estimated that around 1200 people could have lived in the area, very little is actually known for certain about this Inca-built wonder. As with all the unknown, speculation and theory is rife, with some believing the site was home to Incan rulers and others thinking it was most likely a prison or defensive retreat.

We do know that Machu Picchu was built around 1450 and then abandoned by the Incans about a century later during the Spanish Conquest. On top of the mysterious history, Machu Picchu’s phenomenal and resilient architecture has also drawn visitors to witness the remarkable site first-hand.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall
Historically significant and architecturally amazing, the Great Wall of China dates back as far as the 7th Century BC but has been added to and strengthened many times since. Most notably the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty was responsible for the linking of several sections of the wall in 221BC when he formed the first 10,000 li Great Wall.

Most of what we know as the Great Wall today, originates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and perhaps the best viewing spot in the whole of China is the Great Wall at Badaling where you can capture a long sprawling view of the wall in all its postcard-worthy glory.

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Christ_on_Corcovado_mountain.JPGChrist the Redeemer is the most recent of all the New7Wonders of the World, constructed between 1922 and 1931 as a prominent and now eminent symbol of Brazilian Christianity. It is a huge Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ, crafted by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and French engineer Albert Caquot.

Christ the Redeemer overlooks the energetic city of Rio and is located at the peak of the 2,300 ft Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park. Most of us have seen the panoramic shots of Christ the Redeemer in magazines, holiday brochures, on television and the like but few will have the pleasure of seeing it first-hand and exploring this dynamic part of the world.

The GREAT outdoors: The spellbinding winners of a competition that asked travellers to photograph America’s National Parks

Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous – thanks Mail Online! – I love what ordinary human beings can do with a camera and nature…  😀

Ned


Goats [actually sheep] framed by the sunset, a grazing bison and the Milky Way dazzling the Badlands of South Dakota.

These breathtaking images are the prize-winning entries of a photographic competition run to capture the spellbinding beauty of America’s National Parks. 

Over 15,000 entries were submitted to the fifth Share the Experience Contest last year, with both travellers and amateur photographers sharing their favourite images from the 400 parks in the National Park system.

First place of $10,000 (£6,922) was awarded to Yang Lu, for a sunset shot at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah. This was followed by Koustubh Kulkarni’s picture taken at 49 Palms Trail at Joshua Tree National Park in California, in second place.

America’s National Park Service is currently in its centennial year and to celebrate is offering 16 days of free entry in 2016, the next dates being August 25 – 28. 

Here are the winning photographs that seek to inspire travellers to take advantage of the parks’ stunning landscapes.

Grand Prize Winner: First place of $10,000 (£6,922) was awarded to Yang Lu for this sunset shot at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah

Grand Prize Winner: First place of $10,000 (£6,922) was awarded to Yang Lu for this sunset shot at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah

Second Place Winner: This picture of Big Horn sheep was taken by Koustubh Kulkarni on the 49 Palms trail at Joshua Tree National Park, with the setting sun casting beautiful hues of orange, yellow, pink and blue over the flock

Fan Favourite Winner: Matthew Sorum submitted this image of a large bison grazing in Yellowstone National Park. It was highly commended

Fan Favourite Winner: Matthew Sorum submitted this image of a large bison grazing in Yellowstone National Park. It was highly commended

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn’t Know Existed

More gorgeousness from at Thrillist Travel.

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Iguassu Falls | Curioso/Shutterstock

Anyone who’s watched more than two episodes of The Twilight Zone — or read the angry comments when we named the most beautiful place in every state — knows that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Undaunted, we proceeded to tell you about all the beautiful places you didn’t know existed in California and New York and even in Nevada, because believe it or not, there actually is beauty there outside of a strip club.

But enough about America, there’s a whole big world out there; and it’s full of stunning scenery that you’ve probably never laid eyes on — until now. Here are 20 of the most spectacular places on the planet.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Abraham Lake

Alberta, Canada
Ever wonder what happens when freezing water traps methane bubbles created by bacteria feeding off dead matter on the sea bottom? Welcome to Abraham Lake. Here, those bubbles of methane (undetectable in your standard, non-frozen lake) create pockets that resemble millions of orbs trapped in the ice. Just don’t light up while you’re snowmobiling; if the ice cracks and those bubbles burst, methane is highly flammable.

Abraham Lake

LaiQuocAnh/Shutterstock

Cueva de los Cristales

Chihuahua, Mexico
Don’t feel bad for not knowing about this “Cave of Crystals” — until 2000, nobody had heard of it. That year, two brothers mining for silver drilled here and accidentally uncovered an epic cavern filled with translucent, 30ft crystals, some of which are nearly half-a-million years old. If you can stomach a 20-minute van ride through a mine shaft, you’ll be greeted by triple-digit temperatures and 90% humidity thanks to the magma field that flows a mile under your feet.

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Dean’s Blue Hole

Long Island, Bahamas
There are some spectacular beaches in the Caribbean. And some other-world crazy cenotes in Mexico. Dean’s Blue Hole combines the two — albeit underwater — and is the largest blue hole in world. Although honestly, the white sand beach and limestone walls that surround the hole could make this list as well, they’re equally as stunning. That said, descend past the initial 60ft bottleneck and Dean’s Blue Hole opens into one of the largest underwater cenotes in the world, complete with turquoise water, seahorses, and tropical fish (it’s a hotspot for tarpon and snapper). Clear visibility and no current make it a place as scenic below the surface as above.

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Crystal Mill

Marble, CO
OK, OK, so we couldn’t resist throwing at least one US spot on the list. About an hour outside of Aspen, and an eight-hour hike from the nearest road, there’s a ghost town at the base of the Rocky Mountains. And the lone remnant of that ghost town is this old mill. If you visit in the fall, the combination of golden leaves, blue sky, and white snowcapped peaks might be the most unexpectedly beautiful vista in the American West.

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Laura grier

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Iguazu Falls

Misiones Province, Argentina
Iguazu Falls aren’t that obscure, but they’re probably just another one on your mental list of big waterfalls to visit some day, up there with Niagara and Victoria. Which sells them WAY short. This isn’t so much a waterfall but a venerable city of waterfalls — 250 of them stretching nearly two miles — that dumps 53,000 cubic feet of water PER SECOND. Throw in the fact that they’re located in a gorgeous South American rainforest, and you’ve pretty much got one of the most impressive feats of nature on the planet.

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Lençóis Maranhenses

Maranhao, Brazil
The name literally means “bedsheets of Maranhao,” the state in Northeastern Brazil where these coastal dunes sway over 600 square miles of shoreline. The dunes are formed when the Parnaíba and Preguiças Rivers bring sand from the country’s interior to the ocean, and then the ocean currents — aided by northeasterly winds that blow inland — send that sand back to the shore. Though the area might look like a desert, temporary lagoons spring up in between the dunes during rainy season and often double as exceptional fishing holes.

Cavernas de Marmol (Marble Cathedral)

Lake General Carrera, Chile
What happens when you take a Patagonian peninsula made completely of marble and surround it with a massive glacial lake? Weird, swirling marble caves that change color, that’s what! These only-accessible-by-boat caves near the Chile-Argentina border reflect the color of the water that flows through them, shining turquoise in the spring and deep blue in the summer. The reflections also change the appearance of the patterns in the marble; meaning, if you visit the caves at different times of year you’ll have a completely different experience. Then again, after the 1,000-mile drive from Santiago and lengthy boat ride, once might be enough.

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Wata51/Shutterstock

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Forest of Knives (Tsingy Forest)

Madagascar
The name might sound like the setting for Halloween 12: Michael Does Madagascar but the surreal beauty of this limestone forest is anything but horror-inducing. Quite the opposite. Here, slabs of rock stab upward 200ft in the air, mixing with trees to create a literal forest made of leaves and jagged peaks. Climbing here is the main attraction but be warned, it can be dangerous: slip and you could find yourself with a Ginsu-like gash.

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Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel

Chamarel, Mauritius
One of the problems with rainbows, other than the fact that there’s never a pot of gold at the end of them, is that as soon as you try to Instagram one… POOF!… it’s gone. If only rainbows were made out of sand that could withstand thousands of years of rain and erosion. Well, guess what rainbow lovers, meet the Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel! These rainbow dunes in Mauritius are formed by sand of seven distinct colors — red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple, and yellow. Even cooler: pick the sand up, put it in a bottle, mix it up — eventually it’ll resettle into the same seven distinct layers. Every time.

Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel, Mauritius

Andrea Murphy

Deadvlei

Hardap, Namibia
It’s hard to believe when standing under an oppressive sun in the middle of 1,300ft-tall sand dunes that this valley was once a lush forest fed by the Tsauchab River. That, of course, was 900 years ago. Since then, the area has become so parched that the remaining trees didn’t even have enough water to decompose, and now sit as charred relics. Add rusted sand and a deep-blue sky, and this is one of the most colorfully desolate places on the planet.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Deception Island

Antarctica
Hiking to the top of an active volcano is cool, but you know what’s really badass? Sailing into one. Tough to do in most places, but not Antarctica; this active volcano (which last erupted in 1992) in the South Shetland Islands has a horseshoe-shaped caldera, and ships can sail right up to its smoldering beaches. As you cruise around the volcanic bay, you’ll see both snow and ash covering the lava formations amidst the steam.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Yongyut Kumsri/Shutterstock

Lemaire Channel

Antarctica
This seven-mile-long, mile-wide channel between the mountains on Booth Island and the Antarctic peninsula was originally nicknamed the “Kodak Channel” because it was so photogenic. Although today, it would probably be “Instagram Channel.” Either way, you want to catch it when the entrance isn’t blocked by ice and the boat can make the trip inside.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Red Seabeach

Pinjin, China
Even if you don’t hit this wetland in September, when the seepweeds mature from green to bright red, the 16-mile marsh is still one of the most beautiful spots in China to glimpse birds and wildlife. But if you are there in September, you’re in for a treat. The red fields attract flocks of over 200 species of birds as they migrate from Asia to Australia, and you can nod approvingly at them all from wooden bridges built over the water.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

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Sea of Stars

Vaadhoo Island, Maldives
There are more than a few bioluminescent bays in the world, where a species of phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates glow/illuminate the water when an influx of oxygen disturbs their cell membrane. This one on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives stands out, however, because the bright-blue light appears to be reflecting the stars over this island.

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PawelG Photo/Shutterstock

El Nido

Philippines
El Nido is classically known as the gateway to the Philippines’ Bacuit Archipelago and, according to (urban?) legend, was Alex Garland’s inspiration when he wrote The Beach. Although, yes, Leo’s adventure was set in Thailand, the limestone cliffs, bright-green foliage, and turquoise waters here apparently make it hard to distinguish between the two. Also, just so you know: a trip to El Nido requires a seven-hour bus ride.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Lord Howe Island

Australia
There’s a reason you haven’t heard of this island 375 miles off New South Wales: there’s no cellphone coverage. Which means as beautiful as it is, nobody can go all selfie-stick/Instagram crazy while they’re there; they’re forced instead to do something novel like appreciate the wildlife. Wildlife that, because of the island’s perpetual isolation, includes birds, insects, and plant species that don’t exist anywhere else in the world.

The island also sits near Earth’s most southerly coral reef, making for world-class diving and snorkeling. Which is even better considering you don’t have to share — only 400 visitors are allowed on the island at any given time.

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Homebush Bay

Sydney, Australia
An otherwise unremarkable residential bay in Sydney makes this list not for its water, but for the ship that sits near the coastline. Built during World War I, the SS Ayrfield ran supplies to American troops in the Pacific during World War II before an oil company bought it in the 1950s and stationed it in the middle of this bay. Then nature took over. Now, it’s a man-made island filled with trees and wildlife, and one of the most decrepitly beautiful sights in the world. A work of art almost unto itself.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe

Le Puy-en-Velay, France
Talk about wonders of the world; even with today’s technology, imagine how hard it would be to build ANYTHING on top of a small pointy rock? Now imagine building a stone cathedral in 962, without cranes, hydraulics, or anything other than actual people hauling stones up 268 stairs. Sounds fun, right? But the result is this beauty, built atop a basalt needle with a sweeping view of the city below.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

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Crystal Cave at Skaftafell

Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland
Blue ice is more than just the GOOD ice pack the nurse gives you when you sprain your ankle. It’s a brilliant, aqua-colored geologic formation that results when air bubbles are compressed out of ice over time. And it is in abundance in this cave at Vatnajokull National Park. Don’t let the 22ft shoreline entryway fool you; the cave tapers down to as few as 4ft, and will crack and pop when you walk inside. That doesn’t mean it’s about to collapse, though; it’s just the sound of glacial movement against the volcanic island.

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Picos de Europas

Spain
While the Alps and the Pyrenees get all the attention, this tiny range near the northern coast of Spain is equally as beautiful. The range only stretches about 26 miles (and its highest peak, Macizo Central or Macizo de los Urrieles, is barely 8,000ft tall), but when it comes to skiing and snowshoeing away from the masses, it’s a tough location to beat. And thanks in part to an abundance of wildflowers and Spanish brown bears, it’s one of the prettiest places in Europe to spot exotic wildlife in the summer.

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Live the Jungle Book lifestyle with these spectacular treehouses

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

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

If you are craving a night with just the bare necessities like Mowgli, there are simple retreats offering guests the chance to fall asleep in nature's arms.And for those who prefer luxury breaks in the woods, there are plenty of breathtaking options available

Watamu Guest House, Watamu, Kenya 

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

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

Peter and Katie Bahouth bought the land in 2000 and spent six months designing and building the fairytale retreat, which they now rent out

Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light, while pretty fairy lights and swishy curtains add a dash of romance to the scheme

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, Thailand 

Keemala is a small wellness-focused resort in the woodlands just outside the village and beach of Kamala on the island of Phuket

The bauble-shaped treehouses, one of four types of dwelling, loosely resemble James Cameron's Pandora from the blockbuster film Avatar

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 bar and restaurant inside are just as beautiful as the exterior, with its all-natural wood and stone decor

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’.

Prices are available from £590 per night.

Teahouse Tetsu, Japan 

Enchanting: The utterly charming Teahouse Tetsu was built by architect Terunobu Fujimori for the Kiyoharu Shirakaba Museum in Hokuto, Japan

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

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

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 

When it’s time to eat, guests dine in a glass-walled dining room or on a suspended deck where they can take in the views

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 

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

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.

The Worst Things Nobody Tells You About the Countries They Visit

People come back from vacation and kind of sugarcoat everything. Even on a trip where they spent the entire time trying not to freeze to death, they’ll typically return and say something like, “You know, aside from the desolate frozen wasteland and 14 straight days of blizzards, Siberia was BEAUTIFUL!” And then they go on to tell you about how welcoming everyone was, and how you really should learn to appreciate borscht.

But nobody really sees the world through such rose-colored glasses, and when granted the anonymity of the internet, we probably all have some terrible things to say about countries we’ve visited. Which is why it’s fun to read what Redditors chose to omit about certain countries in order to keep their travel tales positive. Let’s just say there were a lot of accusations of racism, but those aside, here are some of the highlights.

Nobody in China can drive

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Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock.com

  1. Zaralith

    Getting hit by a car in China is different than other countries because the person at fault has to pay for the victims medical bills and care for the rest of their life as relates to the accident, while if the person dies it is a flat fine to the family. This causes people in China to put their car in reverse and run the person over again to make sure they died because it is a lot harder to prove that it murder for that in China (I thought I hit a pothole, etc.)

    Edit: u/statistical_mechanic, u/EleventyMillions, and u/cliff99 have pointed out to me that this has been shown as unlikely and misinterpreted via Snopes.

Venice stinks, like literally

  1. MrFunsocks1

    The romance of Venice is almost completely ruined by the odor. The canals are filthy, and smell, and it isn’t helped by everyone in Italy being a smoker and leaving butts everywhere.

Morocco needs more toilet paper!

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  1. gnirpss

    If you go to Morocco, carry tissues with you at all times. There is a shocking lack of toilet paper in Moroccan bathrooms.

Australia is ridden with… flies?

  1. chippeh

    oh god I had forgotten.

    They get in your mouth, nose, eyes.

    Blergh

    Gadorow

    I’ve grown convinced that in the center of our country lurks the demon prince Beelzebub, Lord of Flies.

Peru is full of stray dogs

The Worst Things Nobody Tells You About the Countries They Visit

Flickr/Hllewellyn

  1. honeynut-queerios

    There’s a lot of stray dogs in Peru. I’ve heard that stray dogs are kind of the norm in Latin American countries, and most of the ones I encountered didn’t want anything to do with anyone passing by. However, there was one stray that I passed frequently while walking to a project I was working at and he was extremely aggressive, to the point that I started carrying rocks in my bag in case he chased me. He would follow me for blocks, remaining hidden in a yard until I passed by. He’d bare his teeth and growl, he also slobbered a lot. I didn’t think it was rabies, but I’m also not 100% convinced it’s not rabies.

New Zealand may as well be Albuquerque: so much meth

  1. DNZ_not_DMZ

    As a European who moved to NZ:

    NZ has a huge problem with meth.

    Burglaries and rapes are much more common here, so is domestic violence.

    I love it here, but it’s not quite the quaint LotR wonderland it’s often made out to be.

    PM_a_llama

    A massive problem with meth! I can’t even score weed but everyone is offering me P. Ridiculous. Watch the movie Once Were Warriors for an insight on some things OP is referring to.

Italy is COVERED in graffiti

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Flickr/Bob

turnipforwhales

  1. Went to Milan a few months ago. Huge factories, graffiti everywhere, lots of homeless people, shanty towns, boarded up houses, saw a guy attempt to pick-pocket someone. And there were huge designer stores all over the city too. There seemed to be an enormous class difference. Only posted the cathedral on facebook…

The Swiss are kinda rude

  1. wjescott

    Switzerland was absolutely stunning…if there weren’t any people around.

    The Swiss people I met were, to a person, very rude. In the old adage, “If you meet one asshole in a day, he’s an asshole. If everyone you meet is an asshole, you’re the asshole”, I went and pored over everything I did/said to see if I’d been in the slightest bit rude, mean, snotty, superior, anything…I’m an American, and this was the 80’s…we were all trying to be nice to everyone, after all, Russia was almost at the breaking point, we were in the United Colors of Benetton…I seriously, seriously wasn’t trying to be a dick in any way, yet was treated with dickishness at every turn.

    All in all, I visited 9 countries when I was there, and I can’t say the slightest bad thing about any of them, except Switzerland. French people? Amazing, polite, sweet…Parisians were a bit New York-style-superior (or the other way around) but are still great folks. Germans were gracious, polite, funny. Italians…oof…I didn’t want to leave! Spain and Portugal were the same way. Greece was stunning and the folks treated you like you were family.

    Switzerland…not so much.

    Amidatelion

    Swiss people are very insular and, ah, superior-minded. The fact that you were an American probably compounded a very cold reaction almost everyone gets. I’m half-german and though I speak fluent German, they treated me pretty poorly until my grasp of the dialect improved. And the damn superiority never went away, except for some close co-workers.

Brazil is filthy…

https://assets3.thrillist.com/v1/image/1685020/size/tl-horizontal_main/the-worst-things-nobody-tells-you-about-the-countries-they-visit

Filipe Frazao/Shutterstock

  1. mredofcourse

    I’m in Rio de Janeiro right now. There’s no way this place could be ready for the Olympics in 6 years let alone 6 months. It’s a very filthy place. There are all kinds of sewage, pollution, litter, crime, traffic and corruption issues.

    Climbing to the top of Sugar Loaf was fun, and beautiful, minus the fact that there was human poop on the trails and routes that you had to climb around. Also the view was marred by being able to see a huge garbage island floating out of the harbor towards the beaches.

    It’s a shame because there’s so much potential here, but it requires more than just cleaning up. It needs major infrastructure changes as well as changes in behavior of the people.

    A lot of people are going to end up getting sick at the Olympics.

    That said, we’re still having an amazing time. The Copacabana Palace is a really nice place, the music has been wonderful, the people are friendly, hang gliding was a blast, the views are spectacular, Christ the Redeemer is inspiring, and everything is inexpensive.

… and Uruguay isn’t much better. Haven. For. Litterbugs.

  1. soldiersquared

    Uruguay. The kinder, gentler bi-curious cousin of Argentina and Brazil is secretly the littering capital of South America.

    Everybody just throws their trash on the sidewalk and nobody picks up their waste from their dogs that I’m still convinced the government issues because everybody has one. The gas they use is unlike our “unleaded” we use in the States so the air smells completely fucking toxic. Unreal.

Floridians are a bunch of cheaters

https://assets3.thrillist.com/v1/image/1681284/size/tl-horizontal_main/the-worst-things-nobody-tells-you-about-the-countries-they-visit

Flickr/Elzey

carlosdanger11

  1. Sitting in a Florida cracker barrel while on vaca right now. I can’t believe how many young people (like in their 20’s) have handicap stickers. I watched at least 4 groups of them while waiting for a table and none of them had any noticeable issues. There’s actually a Ferrari parked in one now.

American border officers are a-holes

  1. GodardWaffleCakes

    Border officers in the US tend to be unnecesarily rude, it doesn’t matter if you are entering by land or plane, you can feel they don’t want you there. I have gone to the US many times and every single time it is the same. It really is a bummer for it to be your first experience entering the country, as the rest of the trip tends to be great.

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Top Destinations on the Rise

This is what Trip Advisor reckons we should see in 2016:-


1. Tulum, Mexico

Photo provided by ©4Corners (60502086)

Tulum is relaxation and romance with an ancient angle. Guests can enjoy modern takes on traditional Mayan massage and spa treatments, or sunbathe on gorgeous Yucatan beaches within site of well-preserved ancient ruins. A rare mix of beach, archeology and village, Tulum is a romantic getaway like no other.

2. Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena (125284846)
Cartagena, a gorgeous fishing village on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, has excellent beaches, a historic old town (that’s entirely walkable) and beautiful colonial architecture. It’s also one of the safest places in the country, so it’s no wonder it’s a popular port of call for cruise ships. Need a break from exploring the cobblestone streets? Stop at an outdoor cafe for excellent pastries and people-watching.

3. Porto, Portugal

Porto (160905579)
The town that gave the country (and port wine) its very name, Porto is Portugal’s second-largest metropolis after Lisbon. Sometimes called Oporto, it’s an age-old city that has one foot firmly in the industrial present. The old town, centered at Ribeira, was built on the hills overlooking the Douro River, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 14th-century São Francisco church is a main attraction, as are the local port wine cellars, mostly located across the river at Vila Nova de Gaia.

4. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg, TN (160535934)
Gatlinburg, at the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is an ideal base for a family looking to explore the park’s numerous offerings. After you’ve gone hiking, fishing, rafting or horseback riding, ride an elevator 342 feet to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle for stunning views of the Smokies. There’s also an amusement centre next door with nifty rides and games.

5. Moscow, Russia

Dream of Byzantium (30333635)
The political, scientific, historical, architectural and business centre of Russia, Moscow displays the country’s contrasts at their most extreme. The ancient and modern exist side by side in this city of 10 million. Catch a metro from one of the ornate stations to see Red Square, the Kremlin, the nine domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, the KGB Museum and other symbols of Moscow’s great and terrible past, then lighten up and go shopping in Boulevard Ring, or people-watch in Pushkin Square.

6. Brighton, UK

Brighton Pier (22953903)
Londoners have been traveing to Brighton for beach getaways ever since the railway arrived here in 1841. The pebbled beach, Brighton Pier’s amusement arcade and the Royal Pavilion are the main sights, but you’ll also find hundreds of pubs and clubs catering to an energetic crowd.

7. New Delhi, India

New Delhi (160905475)
Laid out by British architect Edwin Lutyens, the Indian capital is a striking modern metropolis. A gracious contrast to Old Delhi’s winding streets, the grand avenues and stately buildings of New Delhi are rich with history and culture, from Gandhi’s Delhi home (and the site of his assassination) to the tomb of Humayun, a complex of Mughal buildings reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. Chaotic traffic is best left to the locals. Negotiate a good price for taxis or travel on the new Delhi Metro.

8. Banff, Alberta

Banff Avenue in winter (44920489)
Flanked on all sides by the Rockies, Alberta’s favourite mountain town offers an irresistible combination of luxury lodges, perfect powder, renowned restaurants and energetic nightlife. With both summer and winter appeal, Banff lures visitors to its stores, spas and slopes year-round. A thriving arts scene, and proximity to Lake Louise and Kananaskis County, add to its allure. Don’t miss the hoodoos, intriguing rock spires, in Banff National Park, Canada’s first and the world’s third – National Park.

9. Lima, Peru

miraflores-coastline (1585745)
Lima, founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, is a fascinating city and a treasure trove of history. Explore ancient Incan archaeological sites, or stroll through the elegant cathedrals and opulent palaces dating from Spanish colonial times. Downtown Lima is crowded, but you’ll enjoy exploring the city’s neighbourhoods—especially the beachfront areas, which have great shopping and dining and fabulous hotels.

10. Foz do Iguacu, Brazil

וכמובן קצת תמונות איכותיות מהמקום ....כי בפעם הקודמת התמונות שלנו לא יצאו משהו (20469482)
Giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots, endangered jaguars and clouds of butterflies are among the attractions at this World Heritage-designated park that marks the border between Brazil and Argentina. By foot or by raft, explorers can view one of the world’s most stunning waterfalls, Iguazu Falls. Among the park’s 270 waterfalls, spectacular Devil’s Throat combines 14 falls and generates a “perpetual rainbow” in good weather.

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 to Visit in 2016

Botswana ranks Number 1 in LP’s 2016 list; it’s somewhere I have trekked several times and I must admit it never disappoints.  I particularly love the stunning Duba Plains, the Tsodilo Hills – Botswana’s first World Heritage site – and the mysterious disappearing Lake Ngami.  Stable and prosperous, Botswana has blossomed since independence from Britain in 1966. It is Africa’s longest continuous democracy and one of the world’s biggest diamond producers. Currency is the Pula.

Brian Jackman wrote a great piece in the Telegraph a couple of years back if you want to learn more on the Okavango Delta here.

Ned


1. Botswana

Democratic, progressive, enlightened – but above all, invigoratingly wild. The story of Botswana’s journey from poverty to become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies is inspirational; the country celebrates 50 years of independence in 2016 and there’s a lot for it to shout about, not least the way it has balanced economic growth with protecting its natural riches. Prepare for a severe case of slack-jawed-with-awe syndrome when you visit.

In 2016 Botswana will celebrate its 50th year of independence. So what, you may say. What’s there to shout about? Well, quite a lot really. Not least the longest continuous multi-party democracy on the continent, a progressive social outlook (Botswana was one of the first countries to offer free antiretroviral drugs to its citizens in 2002), minimal corruption, a healthy and enlightened tourism industry and a fast-growing economy since independence. The country’s journey from abject poverty in 1966 to become one of Africa’s most stable and thriving societies is hugely inspiring and, no doubt, deserves a proverbial pat on the back.

But that’s not all. Botswana is a unique destination: an unusual combination of desert and delta that draws an immense concentration of wildlife. It is wild, pristine and expansive. Seventeen percent of the country is dedicated to national parks, many of them spreading into the vast Transfrontier parks of Kavango-Zambezi and Kgalagadi. This dedication to conserving some of the world’s last remaining wildernesses was finally recognised in 2014 when the jewel in Botswana’s conservation crown, the Okavango Delta, became Unesco’s 1000th World Heritage Site. Despite this embarrassment of accolades, Botswana remains off the radar for most people. The impression is: it’s too difficult to get to, it doesn’t cater for families. But we’re here to tell you that’s all nonsense. Go now! Go by plane, car or mokoro (canoe). Go in the green season or the dry season – it’s all great. Go to Vumbura Plains Camp or Jao Camp with tons of cash for the trip of a lifetime or go on a budget to community projects like Tsabong Camel Park and Moremi Gorge. Go as a honeymooning couple to gaze over the dreamy Zibandianja Lagoon in Linyanti or as an adventure junkie to ride horseback through Mashatu Game Reserve. Go as a wildlife enthusiast and track elephants in the mini-Serengeti of Savuti or meerkats on the Makgadikgadi Pans. Go alone to take your guiding qualifications at Okavango Guiding School or with the kids to experience Ker & Downey’s award-winning family safari (Safari Awards 2015). Whatever you do and whenever you go, you won’t regret it. Trust us on this one.

Life-changing experience

Botswana is so full of life-changing experiences it would be easier to list the things that aren’t remarkable. Here is a real wilderness that puts you in touch with palpable primitive thrills and fears, whether it’s being poled by an African gondolier in a mokoro past pods of sunbathing hippos in the Okavango Delta; or feeling the spirit of the first men in the thousand-year-old rock art in the Tsodilo Hills; or in the eerie beauty of Kubu Island’s ancient baobabs backlit by incandescent constellations in a vast night sky.

Current craze

So called ‘car park pimping’. Thanks to a 30% tax on alcohol and new licensing hours enforcing club closures at 2am, Gaborone’s club scene has moved outdoors and hijacked suburban car parks. Here the party continues around makeshift DJ decks with experienced clubbers equipped with personal cool boxes and camping chairs.

Trending topics

Direct flights. For years the government has been clamouring for direct international flights, and the relocation of De Beers’ sales office from London to Gaborone (handling about US$6.5-billion worth of rough diamond sales annually) in 2013 has undoubtedly added new pressure. Gaborone’s airport and runway have recently been upgraded and similar upgrades are planned for Maun and Kasane. With all the action people are hoping the long-awaited day may come within the next 6 to 12 months.  – Paula Hardy

2. Japan

Japan. It might be number two in this year’s rankings, but it’s always number one for travellers in search of an otherworldly experience. Nowhere else on earth exemplifies that dog-eared ‘modern yet ancient’ cliche like the land of the rising sun. Tokyo’s successful bid to host the Olympics in 2020 has raised the temperature of a feverish city amid a blur of new development, but beyond the suburbs Japan remains as elegant and enticing as its graceful wooden temples.

Even if you’ve never been to Japan, you probably already know that it ranks number one in the world for that quintessential not-in-Kansas-anymore travel experience. Its cities are expertly crafted odes to futurism where the trains whirr by in the blink of an eye and the towers of metal and glass are bathed in neon light. The countryside, too, feels otherworldly, with all-continents-in-one landscapes that blend alpine peaks with shimmering shores. And everywhere in between are prim wooden temples – the constant reminder that a well of deep-seated traditions hides just beneath the country’s enticing veneer of perfection.

Although Japan didn’t secure the Olympic bid for 2016, it was resoundingly successful with its application for Tokyo in 2020. And Olympic fever is already apparent in the capital as the city executes an elaborate feat of urban planning that will create a brand new shopping district, an entirely new Olympic village, and – most interestingly – move the much-venerated Tsukiji fish market (which sees over US$20 million in seafood sales each day) to a sparkling new facility that is set to swing open its doors at the end of this year. As everyone’s radioactive paranoia is finally put to rest by honouring five years since the fateful 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and with the government’s continued efforts to devalue the Japanese yen, there’s no better time to experience the country that pays such vivid tribute to manic modernity and hallowed history.

Life-changing experience

One of the world’s most famous pilgrimage routes after the Camino de Santiago is Japan’s Kumano Kodo near Osaka. For over a millennium devotees of every ilk – be it farmer or emperor – would walk betwixt hidden Oji shrines and forests of haunting trees to reach the three grand worshipping complexes of Kumano. There are a handful of different paths that extend like spokes around the Kii peninsula, but the goal is united in the act of spiritual penance performed by hikers as they rigorously trek. The preferred route – and also the oldest – is Nakahechi, which starts in the west and travels 30km to the shrines. Unesco officially recognised the network of trails in 2004, and over the last 12 years the walk has seen a steady increase in foreign tourists.

Current craze

Animal cafes. Yes, cat cafes are so 2009, and have proliferated across the globe, but in Japan – the genesis country – animal cafes have reached new heights: hobnob with goats, sip tea with a turtle, pose for selfies with owls, and do whisky shots while watching penguins.

Random facts

  • There are over 5.5 million vending machines in Japan selling everything from umbrellas and cigarettes to canned bread and hot noodles.
  • Japan’s birth rate has plummeted so significantly that adult nappies (diapers) outsell babies’ nappies, which are also sold in vending machines.
  • It is estimated that more paper is used for manga comics than for toilet paper in Japan. (Surprise: both are sold in vending machines as well.)

Most bizarre sight

Cafes where you can tickle owls? Vending machines that sell canned bread? Dentists that help patients accentuate their snaggle-teeth? Take your pick!  – Brandon Presser

3. USA

The ‘best idea’ America ever had turns 100 next year – the National Park Service, which oversees the country’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks, celebrates a centenary of safeguarding Yosemite, Yellowstone, Badlands, Zion, and the rest. So lace up your hiking boots and set foot in the miraculously well-managed 340,000 sq km network of surreal and spectacular landscapes it defends, from earth-rending canyons to alligator-infested swamplands to belching geysers. It’s a national triumph.

Yellowstone, the Badlands, Zion, Shenandoah… Even their names evoke lands of Tolkienesque make-believe. Places where trolls and dragons roam, and magic happens. Step beyond the gates of America’s national parks, and you’ll soon be thinking old JRR should have broadened the scope of his imagination. Geysers spurt hundreds of feet high, massive canyons split the horizon in two, herds of bison graze in stunning valleys, and giant tree trunks, as ancient as Rome’s Colosseum, disappear into the sky. These are some of the most spectacular and surreal landscapes on the planet, and the fact that they are looking much the same as they did at the birth of this land-grabbing, highway-loving nation, is frankly a miracle. In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS), the government body which protects and maintains America’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks, is turning 100 years old, and like any great host, this old-timer has been busting a gut to ensure the parks are at their best for the centenary.

It was historian Wallace Stegner who called the national parks ‘the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.’ These are the country’s national treasures; as hallowed and revered as India’s golden temples or the castles and cathedrals of Europe. Since its inception the NPS – most recognisable in the wide-brimmed figure of the park ranger – has been busy clearing litter, fighting fires, protecting wildlife, and providing information on everything from the habitat of the American black bear to the geology of Utah’s sandstone arches.

This centenary is an occasion that will be marked not by cake and balloons, but by the fruition of billions of dollars of investment and ambitious initiatives that will prepare the NPS for a second century. These range from the physical: clearing trails, improving accessibility, and installing the latest technology, to the inspirational: hosting ‘discovery’ events, involving thousands of young people in volunteer programs, and promoting enjoyment of the parks to urban communities.

It’s serious work. Serious work that has the most wondrous end: discovery of the national parks themselves. Yosemite’s mighty granite cliffs and fairy-tale waterfalls, Zion’s claustrophobic slot canyons, the steamy swamps of the Everglades, howling wolves, soaring condors, glittering glaciers… There are 340,000 sq km (84.4 million acres) to choose from. As you lace up the hiking boots, just remember to give your thanks to those hard-working folk at the NPS.

Life-changing experience

The world’s third-largest nation is a road-tripping paradise. As you take to highways travelled by Thelma and Louise and Bonnie and Clyde, watch the landscape morph from prairie to desert to breathtaking ocean road. On the way, goofy roadside attractions, small-town diners and curious locals are the added spice for the great American road trip.

Trending topics

The election. In 2016, America’s first African-American president will step down. As nationwide protests change the way Americans think about politics, this election year promises raging debate, as well as the usual flag flying and amusing (or just plain rude) bumper stickers. Will history be made again with the inauguration of America’s first female president?  – Dora Whitaker

4. Palau

Handballed between various foreign powers for centuries, Pacific pipsqueak Palau is charting its own path through the uncertain waters of national independence. While the US still plays Big Daddy, Palau is its own master. In 2014 President Remengesau was named a ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the United Nations for strengthening the economic and environmental independence of Palau and creating a 100% marine sanctuary of its oceans. His message: ‘The environment is our economy. The economy is our environment.’

Collected behind a 110km barrier reef, more than 200 largely unspoilt limestone and volcanic islands – a mere eight are inhabited – are blanketed in tropical and mangrove forest and surrounded by waters teeming with marine life. Fairly constant temperatures and rainfall mean any time of the year is good to visit, although it becomes more typhoon-prone in the back half of the calendar.

Palau has as much to fear from rising sea levels and environmental degradation as any other Pacific nation, but it’s tackling those fears head-on, and is leading conservation efforts in the region. Such progressive thinking makes these islands a haven for diving and snorkelling (among the best in the world) as well as kayaking, sailing and wildlife watching. The secret is out in East Asia already, which means Palau is looking to limit the number of tourists it can host at a time.

Life-changing experience

Cutely dubbed an ‘underwater Serengeti’, Palau’s waters are stunningly diverse and it’s unquestionably one of the most magical underwater destinations in the world. Divers and snorkellers enjoy hundreds of species of fish and coral, sharks, dolphins, dugongs and turtles, all attracted by the confluence of nutritive currents that meets in this corner of the Pacific vastness.

If you prefer to stay above sea level, take an ocean kayak through the uninhabited archipelago of the Rock Islands. Almost alien in its beauty, it’s made up of 445 limestone formations swaddled with verdant green and fringed by reefs. Nearly 400 species of coral, the world’s highest concentration of marine lakes, the remains of now-vanished human habitation and the continuing discovery of new and endemic species led Unesco to list this as a World Heritage Site.

Current craze

In 1944, the Japanese and Americans fought for three desperate months for control of the island of Peleliu’s important airfield. The tragic result was over 10,000 Japanese and 2,000 American casualties, and an island paradise littered with wreckage. Today, many of the rusted tanks, planes, small arms and (highly dangerous) unexploded ordnance that attest to the ferocity of the struggle remain. Tourists, carefully shepherded by expert guides, are increasingly being drawn to this fascinating site, where you can even enter the cave networks left by the Japanese defenders, and find everyday artefacts left behind. This isn’t as ghoulish as it may sound: many of the visitors are here to pay respect to fallen relatives, and moves are afoot to preserve the site for its outstanding historical significance.

Trending topics

A 400% year-on-year increase in visitors from China in February 2015 put some noses out of joint in Palau and resulted in a reduction in flights scheduled from China. Palau’s pristine environment makes it a popular destination for the Chinese, Korean and Japanese jet set, but locals have complained about a lack of environmental awareness threatening their precious assets.

Most bizarre sight

Jellyfish Lake is an otherworldly lagoon on the uninhabited limestone Rock Island of Eil Malk. Millions of an endemic sub-species of golden jellyfish drift across the marine lake in an east-west migratory pattern that’s repeated every day. Such is the sensitivity of the lake that visitors must obtain a permit, but snorkelling with these harmless, highly photogenic jellyfish is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  –  Tasmin Waby

5. Latvia

Latvia is shining for its silver anniversary. Celebrating 25 years of freedom from its Soviet fetters, little Latvia is poised to take centre stage after more than two decades of playing catch-up with many of its European brethren. And the title of ‘most improved’ is rightfully deserved for casting aside the dismal shadow of Communism and resuscitating centuries-old traditions that have long made this Baltic treasure shine.

Hundreds of crumbling castles and manor houses – from medieval to Rococo – hide in the nation’s dense forests of pine, and today many of these estates have been lavishly transformed into inns and museums. In fact an entire week could be spent in the countryside connecting the stars of this constellation.

Food, too, has come a long way from sweaty pork and potatoes. A fleet of (new) New Nordic chefs are catapulting local flavours to such artisanal heights that they would truly give Copenhagen a run for its money if Michelin were paying them more attention.

And as the country’s rural population continues to dwindle, Riga, the capital, further bolsters its importance throughout both the country and the region, especially after receiving a generous infusion of EU funds during its reign as European Capital of Culture in 2014. Much of the money was earmarked for infrastructure improvements and major renovations to important civic structures like the former KGB headquarters (now a fascinating museum), and the clutch of coveted Art Nouveau façades, of which the city has over 700 – one of the largest collections in the world.

Life-changing experience

Cast modesty aside and indulge in Latvia’s most Latvian tradition, the pirts – a hot birch sauna. A traditional pirts is run by a sauna master who cares for her naked attendees while performing choreographed branch beatings that draw on ancient pagan traditions. Herbs and wildflowers swish in the air to raise the humidity in the chamber for a series of sweltering 15-minute sessions before you exit the sauna to jump in a nearby body of water (lake, pond or sea). Nibbles and tipples, like smoked fish and beer, are intermixed for good measure, in what is largely the best way to swap the latest gossip with locals.

Random facts

  • It’s believed that the Christmas tree originated in Latvia. In 1510 a fraternity of drunken bachelors hauled a pine tree into Riga’s town square, covered it in flowers and set it on fire. A commemorative plaque marks the spot where the burning tree once stood.
  • A Latvian named Arvĩds Blũmentãls was the inspiration for Crocodile Dundee. Originally from a town in western Latvia called Dundaga, he moved to Australia after the WWII, where he hunted reptiles and dug for opals.
  • Technically the Latvian language has no word for ‘mountain’; the same word is used for ‘hill’ and ‘mountain’. No wonder, since Latvia’s highest point, Gaiziņkalns, is only 312m high.

Most bizarre sight

Gauja National Park may be known as a pine-studded preserve filled with medieval ruins, but it also holds some of the most eccentric relics from the Soviet era. Don’t miss the 1200m cement bobsled track built near Sigulda as the training course for the Soviet Olympic team, and check out the top-secret nuclear fallout shelter buried under a convalescence home in Lĩgatne. The bunker was of high strategic importance during the Cold War and the rooms covered in untouched switchboards and Soviet propaganda will undoubtedly perk the antenna of any Bond enthusiast.  – Brandon Presser

6. Australia

Unless you’re from New Zealand or Papua New Guinea, Australia can seem a long way from anywhere. Getting here usually involves folding yourself into a plane for 24 hours. But with 2016 shaping up as a definitive year for several of Australia’s key wilderness areas, it’ll be 24 hours well spent. In fact, with the weak Australian dollar, anything you spend here this year will be value for money. Petrol prices are heading south too: perfect timing for your great Australian road trip.

Environmentally, battle lines are being drawn near the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, where a string of proposed mining ports will require the dredging and dumping of millions of tonnes of seafloor. In Tasmania, the peace accord between pro- and anti-logging forces has been torn up by the new state government, keen to unlock old-growth forest for export. Now is the time to experience these astounding wilderness areas before compromises are made.

More positively, increasing numbers of Aboriginal land rights claims are being recognised here, including recent claims over Queensland’s Fraser Island and a huge tract of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Indigenous tourism is booming, with new Aboriginal tour companies such as Ngurrangga Tours in Karratha and Bungoolee Tours in the Kimberley offering authentic cultural experiences. Contemporary Aboriginal art remains an Australian cultural high-water mark, as evidenced by the fab new Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts & Culture Centre in Katherine.

Life-changing experience

Australia does a roaring trade in Unesco World Heritage wilderness areas: the 2300km-long Great Barrier Reef; the blood-red rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta; the 15,800 sq km Tasmanian Wilderness Area; the seething jungle of Kakadu National Park… Given the cross-continental distances involved, you mightn’t see them all – but what they have in common is a humbling sense of awe at first sight.

Current craze

Food vans and small bars. Battling innumerable fast food joints in Australian cities, the current clog of takeaway food vans – serving everything from burgers to barramundi curry – is constantly expanding. Afterwards, sip a craft beer at the latest alleyway speakeasy around the corner.

Trending topics

Real estate is the national addiction. Australians love talking about it, building it, buying it, looking at it on TV and (most of all) making money selling it. When the GFC jumped up and bit everybody in 2008, world real estate prices tumbled – but not in Australia. A glorious mining boom was in full swing: Australians just kept on buying pricey houses, driving the market skywards. Now – having reached a tipping point where the median house price is more than five times the median annual household income – Australian house prices are among the least affordable on the planet Will the bubble burst?

Random facts

  • Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world (behind Russia, Canada, the USA, China and Brazil).
  • When the British landed in 1788, Australia comprised more than 500 different Aboriginal nations, with distinct languages and territories.
  • Since the inception of the Man Booker Prize for literature in 1969, four Australians have won: Peter Carey (twice), Thomas Keneally, DBC Pierre and Richard Flanagan.
  • Since Europeans arrived in Australia, 27 native mammal, 23 bird and 78 frog species are believed to have become extinct.

Most bizarre sight

Emerging from the haze in the far-flung Oodnadatta Track in the central Australian desert is the Mutonia Sculpture Park – a kooky roadside installation featuring several large aeroplanes welded together with their tails buried in the ground to form ‘Planehenge’.  – Charles Rawlings-Way

7. Poland

If any country in Europe can boast superpowers, it’s Poland. The nation defied a recession that brought the rest of Europe to its knees, and visitor numbers continue to climb. Sceptics said Poland’s luck would wane after the country co-hosted the Euro 2012 football championship. Instead, Wrocław is poised for stardom as a European Capital of Culture, makeovers are adding lustre to lesser-known cities, and wildlife tourism is on the rise. Clearly 2016 is the year to put the icing on the cake – or perhaps, the swirl of śmietana in the beetroot soup.

Wrocław, the historical capital of Silesia, already had plenty of reasons to preen. Its Old Town Hall, with gothic turrets firing off a custard-coloured exterior, is one of Poland’s most beautiful buildings. And among beer gardens and soaring bell towers, Wrocław harbours a show-stopping 114m-long painting, the Panorama Racławicka. Highlights of the city’s stint as one of 2016’s European Capitals of Culture will be an artist-in-residence programme to promote artists across borders and world music days that combine influences across 50 different countries.

Kraków too will sparkle this year for World Youth Day, when the Pope touches down to kick off a calendar of celebrations and activism. In a country nearly 90% Roman Catholic, the turnout in picturesque Kraków is sure to be record-breaking.

And while budget airlines have long spidered their way across Poland, access is even easier with British Airways flying London to Kraków, Wizz Air opening routes to Szczecin and Katowice, and Finnair launching one to Gdańsk. Any lingering condescension about how well this post-Soviet country is muddling along will vanish as quickly as a shot of tangy wiśniówka (cherry vodka).

Life-changing experience

Plummet 135m into the Wieliczka Salt Mine for an unforgettable underground adventure. In this yawning Unesco-listed grotto, carvings grace walls and chandeliers drip from ceilings – all of them made out of salt. Other subterranean sights offer a glimpse into some of Poland’s most colourful myths. Beneath Kraków’s Wawel Hill lies the rumoured lair of a slain dragon, while in the chalk tunnels of Chełm you’ll learn of a legendary white bear, now the city’s emblem.

Hundreds of bison lumber through Białowieża Forest – though we’d wager the first one you spot will grace the label on a bottle of Poland’s legendary bisongrass vodka, Żubrówka. Unesco-listed Bialowieża is the last remaining expanse of the vast forest that once spread across the European plain. The 141,885-hectare forest (which extends into neighbouring Belarus) is home to around 900 bison, more than half of which are in the Polish reserve. The forest is also prowled by elk, wolves and lynx.

Weekenders looking beyond well-loved Warsaw and Kraków are now spoilt for choice. Increasing visitor numbers mean that Łódź, with its 19th-century mansions and cafe-strewn Piotrkowska Street, is abuzz with redevelopment. Meanwhile Szczecin continues to add polish to its Old Town and is now luring golfers to nearby Binowo Park.

Trending topics

Poland’s heavy-metal scene elicits headbanging or howls of dismay, depending on whom you ask. Some of Poland’s heaviest artists have risen to global acclaim, in particular Behemoth, who loudly protest Poland’s religious majority in between bouts of imperious black metal. To some, they are champions of a new, more secular Poland; to many, they’re the terror of the nation. Wherever you fall in the debate, you’ll never associate Poland with folk dancing again.

Most bizarre sight

Wrocław’s gnomes commemorate the1980s thanks to Orange Alternative movement, an anti-Communist group known for its absurdist style of protest – including graffiti and gnome-hat demonstrations. Today more than 300 gnome statues wave from street corners and twirl their beards beneath window panes. Gnomes with canes and wheelchairs have been added to the elfin army, to draw attention to the challenges faced by people in Wrocław with disabilities.  – Anita Isalska

8. Uruguay

Squished between South America’s two titans, Brazil and Argentina, this small country packs a big punch. What it lacks in size, Uruguay makes up for in peacefulness, hospitality and personality. While its two boisterous neighbours lurch from one crisis to the next, Uruguay stands out as a haven of political stability, good governance and prosperity – it’s not dubbed ‘the Switzerland of America’ for nothing. Uruguayans may seem shy and low-key, but they pride themselves on having constructed one of the continent’s most progressive societies – without civil conflict.

After two centuries living in the shadow of its neighbours, Uruguay is now eager to promote its identity and assets as more than just a side trip from nearby Buenos Aires. In 2016, it’s expected that the number of foreign visitors will reach the 3 million mark. But what is it that these holidaymakers come for?

Take Montevideo, which must be the safest capital in South America. When it comes to quality of life, Montevideo is unrivalled on the continent. It’s small enough to get around, but big enough to have some great architecture and a superb restaurant scene. The beach-lined seafront is easily navigated by bike, as is the Old Town, with its array of grand 19th-century neoclassical buildings.

An hour’s drive away lies gaucho (cowboy) country. Here, undulating pampas are dotted with working estancias (cattle ranches), many of which serve as guesthouses. For great nightlife and sexy beaches, head to Punta del Este, a modern resort city on the Atlantic coast full of beautiful people. But if you’re weary of high-rise buildings and cocktail bars, venture further east to Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo. These fabulously remote fishing-surfing villages peppered with colourful wooden cabins are seeing an influx of visitors, drawn by the bohemian vibes, empty beaches, shifting sand dunes, seal colonies and superb waves. Need some cultural sustenance? The gorgeous town of Colonia del Sacramento delivers the perfect blend of authenticity and tourism development. A Unesco World Heritage site, this ancient Portuguese stronghold, with its cobblestoned alleyways, postcolonial ruins, art galleries and elegant B&Bs, has enough to keep visitors happy for days.

Life-changing experience

Uruguayans are the masters of the asado barbecue (but don’t tell the Argentines and Brazilians!). One of the best and most atmospheric places to sample Uruguayan beef is the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo. This 19th-century wrought-iron market hall shelters a gaggle of steakhouses. Pull up a stool at any of the parrillas (steakhouses) and watch the weighty slabs of meat being cooked over hot coals on a grill, then sink your teeth into a tasty morcilla (blood sausage) – memorable! Saturday lunchtime, when the market is crammed with locals, is the best time to visit.

Random facts

  • Uruguayans consume even more maté (a strong green tea) than Argentines and Paraguayans – which is saying a lot.
  • The 29th of each month is Gnocchi Day, when most restaurants serve gnocchi. This tradition dates back to tough economic times when these potato dumplings were the only thing people could afford to cook at the end of the month.
  • Marijuana is produced and sold legally. Home growers are allowed to keep up to six cannabis plants per household.

Most bizarre sight

In Punta del Este, you can’t miss La Mano de Punta del Este (The Hand). This quirky iron and cement sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal was created for an art contest in 1982 and has been a ‘Punta’ fixture ever since. It’s unsurprisingly selfie-friendly – thousands of visitors pose in front of its large digits, with the beach in the background.  – Jean-Bernard Carillet

9. Greenland

Our world is ever warmer, ever more crowded, and ever more plugged-in. So there’s something wildly refreshing about a place that’s about 80% ice covered, boasts the world’s lowest population density, and has cellular coverage so poor that many rely on satellite phones. Come to see the midnight sun on the glaciers, sail among breaching whales, ride across the tundra on a dogsled, watch the Northern Lights dance across the ice sheet.

In March 2016 Greenland (technically a territory of Denmark rather than an independent country, although one with a great deal of autonomy) will host the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of its kind ever. Competitions range from snowshoeing to native games like pole-pushing (think reverse tug-of-war with a tree trunk). There will also be a cultural festival with song, dance and food. If you’re going to visit Greenland, this is the time to go. Luckily for you, it is easier than ever to access. It’s a quick four-hour flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s main airport. And now there are also seasonal and yearly flights from Reykjavík in Iceland to Nuuk, Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk and Narsarsuaq.

Life-changing experience

Witness icebergs the size of the Empire State Building calving in the Ilulissat Icefjord, home to the northern hemisphere’s most productive glacier. The town of Ilulissat, next to the glacier, is known as ‘the iceberg capital of the world’, and offers a huge number of iceberg-watching adventures. Kayak through the fjord’s navy blue waters, soar above the glacier in a fixed-wing plane, or hike along the icy cliffs with a pair of crampons strapped to your shoes.

From September to April, Greenland becomes one of the world’s prime places to see the aurora borealis, nature’s own laser light show. Though you can see the eerie green sine waves from anywhere in the country, for a true once-in-a-lifetime experience join a dogsledding expedition to the interior, where you can pitch a tent on the ice sheet and watch the sky in delicious solitude.

Current craze

Eating local. Yeah, yeah, so calling yourself a locavore is trendy everywhere from Peoria to Little Whinging these days. But Greenland is an Arctic island with little agriculture and no ground transportation. So cooking and eating local here is hardcore. A new generation of young chefs, some of whom have trained abroad in Denmark or elsewhere, are taking on the challenge and making meals with the delicious, albeit limited, local ingredients. Think juniper-poached musk-ox fillets, razorbill with crowberries, kelp salad studded with reindeer bacon, bellflower gelée atop local honey ice cream.

Trending topics

Though Greenland sits atop substantial uranium deposits, the mining of radioactive materials was illegal for a quarter century. Then, in 2013, uranium mining was approved by the government in a close and hotly debated vote. Now the country must decide whether to move forward. Some decry the environmental hazards and potential destruction of Greenland’s way of life, while others say the mining of uranium and other substances is the key to Greenland’s financial woes

Random facts

  • The iceberg that took down the Titanic most likely came from Ilulissat Icefjord in western Greenland, where it began as a snowflake 15,000 years earlier.
  • Greenland’s first brewery invented ‘ice beer’ – beer brewed with water from melted icebergs.
  • There are no roads between towns and settlements in Greenland. Locals and visitors must travel by plane, boat, snowmobile or sled.  – Emily Matchar

10. Fiji

After an uncertain decade following the coup of Commodore ‘Frank’ Bainimarama in 2006, and the constitutional crisis of 2009, Fiji has reverted to its peaceful and pleasure-loving self. In late 2014, Bainimarama finally made good on the promise to hold democratic elections, winning the prime ministership and restoring something of constitutional normality (albeit to a situation he had played an important part in creating).

The 2016 upgrade of the Nadi International Airport should increase capacity and make the transition to paradise a little smoother. Fiji’s international carrier, Fiji Airways, thinks your Fiji experience should begin as soon as you get on board a flight. Those smiles from the cabin crew are just the beginning.

Always blessed by natural beauty and the kind of climate that makes clothes seem a tiresome necessity, today there is a palpable and unprecedented vitality and confidence to Fiji. Whether your bent is idling in a resort, putting your body on the line sampling the latest extreme sport, or the more classic island delights of diving, sailing and angling, 2016 will be the year to soak up all Fiji has to offer.

Life-changing experience

It’s hard to visit Fiji without being serenaded by warm and welcoming singers brandishing guitars or ukuleles. There will be singing at the airport, at your hotel, and even on local buses. But for a real peek into this very traditional culture’s everyday life, get to a village church on a Sunday. Dress modestly (ask locals for advice on what’s appropriate) and have your spirits raised by the voices of a community singing traditional songs in harmony.

Floating in the turquoise waters of the Mamanuca islands is a two-storey pizzeria and bars servicing surfers, divers, sailors and holidaymakers. Swim up and order your wood-fired margherita, lounge on a day bed listening to the surround-sound music, and then ‘cannonball’ back into the spectacular ocean below. Kids are catered for (though did we mention it is completely surrounded by sea?) and prices for the day are all-inclusive. Cloud 9 is a 40-minute speedboat ride from Viti Levu, or a short hop from Musket Cove Island Resort.

Nothing will bring out your inner Attenborough like diving Fiji’s Somosomo Strait off the island of Taveuni. Crowned the ‘soft coral capital of the world’, Rainbow Reef is famous for its marine life, and the luminescent Great White Wall, a vertical drop-off reached by a tubular swim-through, is covered in soft white coral that looks like glimmering snow. The islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni also boast bird watching and forest hiking for the nature-loving land lubber.

Current craze

Just when you thought the human talent for frivolous invention had exhausted all potential for new ‘sports’, along comes flyboarding. Essentially a jet-propelled, hand-controlled hoverboard, the flyboard allows you to skim above the waves, shoot high into the air, plunge into the swell, then do it all again! Try it at Bounty Island.

Trending topics

Music from the African New World has taken root on the Fijian islands. What started in imitation of the original US and Jamaican styles has evolved into distinctive local variants: artists such as E.3 & Cracker (hip hop), 1stribe (reggae) and Kula Kei Uluivuya or KKU (pop) still pay homage to their musical roots, but reflect the experiences of Polynesians today.

Most bizarre sight

Vilavilairevo (fire walking) was originally performed only by the Sawau tribe of Beqa, an island off Viti Levu’s southern coast, but now you’ll probably catch a performance anywhere in Fiji. Traditionally, strict taboos dictated the men’s behaviour leading up to the ceremony and it was believed adherence to these protected them from burns.  – Tasmin Waby

 

 

Best Autumn Trip Ideas from Nat Geographic

Want to snorkel in a Bahamian blue hole, ring in the Ethiopian New Year, or taste maple leaf tempura in Japan? Whether you’re ready for an island, wilderness, or urban getaway, our editors’ list of ten Best Fall Trips – plus one reader’s choice – is sure to inspire your next autumn adventure.

—Maryellen Kennedy Duckett


Celebrate The Sound of Music‘s 50th Anniversary

Picture of Salzburg, Austria

Photograph by Jan Wlodarczyk/Alamy

Salzburg, Austria

Throughout 2015, fans of the 1965 classic movie The Sound of Music have been flocking to Salzburg to mark the world-famous film’s 50th anniversary. Join the party by attending Sound of Music-themed events, including the Sound of Music Gala 2015 (October 17) at the historic Felsenreitschule and the Sound of Music musical at the Salzburg Landestheater. (Check the website for performance dates.) Round out the celebration by visiting actual Sound of Music filming locations, including Nonnberg Abbey, founded in 714, and Mozart Bridge, named for native son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Best bet: Pedal around the city and see key sites featured in the movie on Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour Sound of Music route.

How to Get Around: From Salzburg Airport, take a taxi or public bus for the 15-minute ride to the city center and main train station. In the city, travel on foot and by bike, public bus, and subway. Buy a Salzburg Card for 24-, 48-, or 72-hour use of public transportation and admission to popular city attractions, plus various discounts.

Where to Stay: Although no Sound of Music filming took place inside the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron, the palatial rococo estate, built in 1736 as the family home of the prince archbishop of Salzburg, was featured in the movie. Set designers used the palace’s Venetian Room as the model for the much larger ballroom in the von Trapp villa, and long shots of the estate’s former lakeside gazebo appear in the film. There are 12 suites in the historic palace and 55 rooms in the adjacent Meierhof building, renovated in 2014. Three of the Superior Doubles are billed as “Sound of Music” rooms due to the light, bright interiors and the lake and mountain views.

What to Eat and Drink: Opened around 1542 as a brewery and completely renovated in 2014, the iconic Sternbräu is one of Austria’s largest restaurant complexes. Austrian dishes such as fiakergulasch (meat and sausage goulash) and Salzburger nockerl (an egg soufflé dessert) are served in the multiple dining rooms, bars, and beer gardens. Buy tickets in advance for the Sternbräu’s Sound of Salzburg dinner show (through October 15), which includes musical selections from The Sound of Music, Mozart, and traditional Salzburg operettas.

What to Buy: Salzburg is the hub of Austria’s tracht (national dress) production. Get fitted for a dirndl, lederhosen, loden jacket, or other traditional costume at H. Moser. The family-owned custom tailor shop has been manufacturing trachten since 1928 and created the cast costumes for the Sound of Music musical at the Salzburg Landestheater.

Practical Tip: To easily access maps, travel guides, and other helpful information as you bike around the city, download Salzburg mobile apps to your smartphone or tablet.

What to Watch Before You Go: The five-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition Sound of Music (20th Century Fox, 2015) includes the feature film remastered in HD, plus lots of bonus features, including a virtual map of the Salzburg filming locations and the new, hour-long documentary The Sound of a City: Julie Andrews Returns to Salzburg.

Helpful Link: Official Salzburg Travel Guide

Fun Fact: Actual filming of the Sound of Music “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” singing scenes took place inside a gazebo constructed on a Hollywood set. But that didn’t stop movie fans from trespassing on the grounds of Schloss Leopoldskron to see the glass gazebo used for exterior shots. Due to the heavy tourist traffic, the gazebo was disassembled, moved, and reconstructed in its present location in the gardens at Schloss Hellbrunn.

Staff Tip: Salzburg’s historic c​o​r​e​ is a ​hive​ of museums, shops, cafés—and ​visitor​s, especially in summer. Head just beyond the old city walls, however, and you come upon parks, lakes, and local​ly popular​​​ ​attractions. A standout: the Gössl Gwandhau​s​, or “​Gössl ​​cloth hall​.​” ​A​ showcase ​for the Salzburg-based Gössl clothing brand’s famously well-crafted dirndls, lederhosen, and boiled wool jackets, ​it has blended “as much tradition as possible and as much innovation as necessary” ​since the 1940s, in the words of founder Leopold Gössl​. ​Housed in a centuries-old country palace surrounded by gardens and meadows, the Gewandhaus ​includes a small museum chronicling the evolution of dirndl and lederhosen fashion. Take a tour, then drink in the surrounding scenery over a glass of award-winning Austrian wine and servings of fresh asparagus, ​knödel​ dumplings, and Wiener schnitzel at the elegant terrace restaurant—a setting that​ ​one ​can ​imagine inspir​ing​​​ ​​a composition by ​Salzburg-born ​composer ​Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart​. —Jayne Wise, senior editor, National Geographic Traveler

Take a Nocturnal Wilderness Walk

Picture of kangaroo on Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Photograph by Auscape/UIG

Kangaroo Island, Australia

Only a 30-minute flight from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, called KI by locals, is one of Australia’s most authentic and untouched places. Over half of the 1,705-square-mile island (about three times the size of Oahu) is covered in native, old-growth vegetation. Many of the resident creatures, including kangaroos, koalas, and possums, are nocturnal, so after dark is the best time to experience KI’s wild side. Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary offers guided wildlife walks every night except Christmas. The 90-minute tours begin at sunset and include brief overviews of the island and the sanctuary, a former sheep farm that has been restored to close to its natural setting. “We are revegetating the land and providing a home to the many species that live naturally here, including tammar wallaby, western gray kangaroo, brushtail possum, southern boobook owl, echidna, Cape Barren goose, and many species of birds,” says sanctuary manager Kelly Bartlett. Added bonus: On clear-sky evening walks, guides provide a telescope to view the Southern Cross and other constellations.

How to Get Around: Driving is the most convenient way to travel around the vast island, which is 96 miles long and up to 34 miles wide. From Adelaide, drive about an hour and a half southwest to Cape Jervis to board the Kangaroo Island SeaLink for the 45-minute ferry ride to Penneshaw. Or take the 35-minute flight from Adelaide to Kingscote. Rent a car at the ferry terminal or the airport.

Where to Stay: Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary has six beachside cabins on-site (four two-bedroom and two one-bedroom). All have kitchens and ocean views. Or indulge in the luxurious Southern Ocean Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge, located minutes from the sanctuary. The secluded and sleek eco-resort is perched above the limestone cliffs at Hanson Bay. All 21 suites have floor-to-ceiling ocean views and an outdoor terrace.

What to Eat or Drink: The Oyster Farm Shop in American River processes and packages the harvest from the island’s largest commercial oyster farm. The bulk of the harvest is shipped off-island, but the farm does run a weekday lunch shack across the street from its processing sheds. Try freshly shucked or smoked oysters (harvested from the bay across the road), plus other local sustainable seafood (such as crayfish, abalone, whiting, and marron). Open Monday to Friday only, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

What to Buy: Kangaroo Island is home to the world’s only known colony of Ligurian bees. The Italian bees were introduced to the island in 1884 and have been protected by law since 1885. Visit the Island Beehive in Kingscote to tour the honey factory, purchase jars of organic honey and beeswax candles, and try locally made honeycomb ice cream or a Ligurian latte (made with bee pollen and sugar gum honey).

Cultural Tip: When driving, acknowledge passing motorists with the local “Kangaroo Island wave.” The greeting is subtle—a quick flick up of the index finger on whatever hand is holding the steering wheel—which is helpful, since you’ll need both hands on the wheel to navigate some of KI’s dirt roads.

What to Read Before You Go: KI native Tony Boyle’s sweeping family drama Kangaroo Island (Story Power Books LLC, 2013) offers an insider’s look, albeit fictionalized, at the real-world challenges and rewards of island life.

Helpful Links: Tourism Kangaroo Island, Visit Australia, and the South Australia Tourism Commission

Fun Fact: Kangaroo Island is named for its indigenous kangaroo, a smaller, darker version of its closest mainland relative, the western gray kangaroo. Found in the wild only on KI, the diminutive Kangaroo Island kangaroo typically stands three- to four-and-a-half-feet tall, while the tallest western grays can top out at seven feet.

Local Tip: Jon and Sarah Lark’s Kangaroo Island Spirits at Cygnet River is a must-visit. They serve an affogato with a generous amount of their honey and walnut liqueur (made from freshly roasted walnuts and Kangaroo Island’s famous Ligurian honey). Some say it tastes like a liquid hot cross bun! And try the limoncello and zenzerino—lip smacking! In the mood to eat? The Rockpool Cafe at Stokes Bay on the island’s north coast is only open during summer (and if the fishing is good you might find the Gone Fishing sign on the door), but the cones of fish, chips, and seafood are consistently satisfying. There is plenty of seating both inside and out, but the best bet is to take your meal to the glorious white sandy beach. Make sure you don’t just stop at the car park but follow the To Beach sign, walking through the Picnic at Hanging Rock-style rock formations. You have to watch your head and your chips, but the beach at the other end is breathtaking. —James Baillie, owner, Southern Ocean Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge

Formula One and Day of the Dead

Photograph of a racecar at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack, Mexico City

Photograph by Guillermo Arias

Mexico City, Mexico

October 31-November 2

Fast and furious Formula One (F1) motorcar racing returns to Mexico City for the first time since 1992 with the Mexican Grand Prix on November 1, the Day of the Dead. F1’s open-cockpit, single-seater-style racing isn’t as well known in the U.S., yet has a bigger global audience than NASCAR and the IndyCar series combined.

On November 1, watch the top-flight field maneuver around Mexico City’s Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez F1 circuit at speeds topping 200 miles an hour. Before or after the racing (October 31 to November 2), experience authentic Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) traditions in San Andrés Mixquic, a village located in the far southeastern reaches of Mexico City. The celebration includes Day of the Dead altar competitions and displays, as well as a bustling marketplace stocked with foods, crafts, and festival items such as sugar skulls and pan de muertos (bread of the dead). The highlight is the November 2 candlelight procession through town to the cemetery. Locals carrying a cardboard coffin lead the way, followed by families who will spend the night keeping vigil at their loved ones’ newly decorated graves.

How to Get Around: Take a taxi de sitio (registered, radio-dispatched taxi) or a turismo (an unmarked “tourist” taxi arranged through your hotel) from the airport to the center city. In the city, the extensive metro system is the safest, most convenient, and affordable (about $.30 per ride) mode of transportation.

Where to Stay: Attention to detail is the mantra at Las Alcobas, a luxurious boutique property in the city’s elegant Polanco neighborhood. The 35 rooms and suites are styled with handcrafted rugs, original artwork by Mexican artists, and leather-paneled walls. The in-room minibar is stocked with complimentary locally sourced snacks. The two-bedroom suites and three penthouse suites have wraparound terraces.

What to Eat or Drink: At Biko in the Polanco district, chefs Bruno Oteiza, Mikel Alonso, and Gerard Bellver fuse traditional Basque cooking from northern Spain with local Mexican ingredients. The resulting Basque-Mexican cuisine (what the chefs call cocina gachupa) is featured on two menus: traditional and modern. Choose the tasting menu for the full Biko experience, an avant-garde mix of small plates such as foie gras cotton candy, Mexican pork jowl and tomato, and fried apple with olive and pepper ice cream.

What to Buy: Tienda MAP (Museo de Arte Popular stores) sell artisanal and fair-trade Mexican handicrafts. Featured artists include Urbano Fernández Chávez of Oaxaca, who raises silkworms and, with his family, spins and weaves the silk into one-of-a-kind rebozos (shawls).

What to Watch Before You Go: 1 is an adrenaline-charged documentary detailing the glamour and danger of Formula One Grand Prix racing during the sport’s late 1960s golden age.

Helpful Links: Mexico Tourism Board and Formula 1: Mexico City

Fun Fact: Mexico’s Grand Prix venue, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, located east of Mexico City, is named for national racing legends and brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodríguez. The brothers’ prowess in Formula One racing helped build the sport’s fervent local fan base. Tragically, Ricardo and Pedro died a decade apart (1962 and 1971, respectively) in racing accidents.

Staff Tips: Mexico City quickly became one of my favorite cities—I was surprised at how hard I fell for it. For a visitor, there is so much culture and history, beautiful green space, and cool neighborhoods. There are two local restaurants that I really love. One is Contra Mar, the best people-watching spot in town for lunch, with fabulous seafood. It’s hard to pick between a sidewalk table in the sun and the lively tables inside. For dinner, I dream of Rosetta, which serves perfect Italian dishes in a restored mansion in Roma. Try to sit in the beautiful indoor garden area downstairs. —Annie Fitzsimmons, @anniefitz, National Geographic Urban Insider

I let the artwork of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera guide my week in Mexico City last year: His epic mural in the National Palace introduces hundreds of years of history, while her half-used paint tubes still wait in front of a mirror for another fierce self-portrait in their house, La Casa Azul (Blue House) in Coyoacan, once a separate suburb known for attracting intellectuals and exiles like Leon Trotsky in the 1920s. Leave time for Xochimilco’s Museo Dolores Olmedo in the old hacienda of Diego’s patron, where Mexican hairless dogs roam the grounds, then float in colorful gondola-like boats called trajineras down World Heritage canals for a glimpse of the area’s pre-Hispanic past, which inspired their artwork. —Christine Blau, @Chris_Blau, researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Inaugural World Indigenous Games

Picture of a bow and arrow competition during the indigenous games in Cuiaba, Brazil

Photograph by Felipe Dana, AP

Palmas, Brazil

October 23-November 1

While controversy swirls around preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the city of Palmas in central Brazil has been quietly gearing up to host a smaller (and arguably much cooler) event—the first World Indigenous Games. The games have taken place in Brazil for more than a decade, but this is the first time indigenous athletes from any country are welcome to participate.

Nearly 25 countries are expected to send teams to showcase traditional indigenous games such as the lance (javelin) throw, the log race, and tug-of-war; “Western” soccer; and demonstration events including xikunahity (a soccer-like game played with the head only).

Beyond the games, see the spectacular dunes, waterfalls, and canyons of Jalapão, and visit 200-mile-long Bananal Island, one of the world’s largest river islands and home of the indigenous Karajá and Javaé peoples.

How to Get Around: Palmas is a relatively new, planned city, founded in 1989 as the capital of Brazil’s newest state, Tocantins. The airport is located 18 miles south of the city center. You can take a taxi or public bus from the airport to the city center. However, if you want to explore the surrounding area, renting a car at the airport is the best option.

Where to Stay: In Brazil, a pousada (Portuguese for inn) can be anything from a basic bed-and-breakfast to a luxury eco-lodge. In general, pousadas offer a more authentic, local experience than hotels, and typically include breakfast. Two convenient Palmas options are Pousada dos Girassois and Pousada das Artes, a pousada-style hotel.

What to Eat or Drink: Local dishes to look for in Tocantins include arroz de pequi (rice made with the pulp of pequi, a green-yellow fruit the size of a small orange); biscoito de polvilho (a biscuit made with tapioca flour); and peixe na telha (fish cooked in a clay baking plate). In addition to pequi, indigenous fruits to try include cupuaçu (a melon-size superfruit in the cacao family), açai, and cajá (a sweet, mini-mango-like superfruit packed with vitamin C).

What to Buy: Female artisans in the Tocantins village of Mumbuca are known for their “golden grass” handicrafts. Golden grass (Syngonanthus sp. or capim dourado in Portuguese) is the stem of a small white flower native to the Jalapão region east of Palmas. Dried and braided stems are woven into handbags, necklaces, earrings, mandalas, pots, ornamental folk art, and other items.

What to Watch Before You Go: The short World Indigenous Games promotional video produced by Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism with English subtitles provides background on the event and includes brief interviews with the games’ founders, Inter Tribal Council (ITC) members and brothers Carlos and Marcos Terena.

Helpful Links: World Indigenous GamesVisit Palmas, and Visit Brazil

Fun Fact: The Bororo, or Boe, are among the 24 Brazilian indigenous groups participating in the games. Known for their prowess in tug-of-war, the Bororo have several distinct rituals, including wearing macaw feather headdresses and adorning their faces with drawings made of clay, coal dust, sap, and red-orange urucum (a coloring agent made from the seeds of an annatto tree).

See the World’s Largest Concentration of Blue Holes

Picture of a woman swimming in a blue hole on the island of Andros, Bahamas

Photograph by William Gray

Andros, Bahamas

Andros is only 30 miles (a 15-minute flight) west of Nassau, yet for now this pristine island paradise remains a bit of a Bahamas secret. The “island” consists of a 104-mile-long archipelago of small islets and mangrove-covered cays. Home to the second largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the Caribbean’s largest unexplored wilderness, Andros is best known for its silvery bonefish and the world’s largest known concentration of blue holes (submerged caves). A large number of the underwater caves can be found in Blue Holes National Park, one of five national parks on Andros. “The first experience of a blue hole is spiritual, and then you come to appreciate [that] they are natural wonders of the world,” says Peter Douglas, executive director of ANCAT (Andros Conservancy and Trust), a local nonprofit conservation organization. “Imagine walking onto a big circular ocean of water in the middle of the forest … [Blue holes] are portals back to an alien world under the ocean.”

How to Get Around: Fly into Andros International Airport in Andros Town (also known as Fresh Creek), the commercial hub of North Andros. There is no public transportation, so car rentals, taxis, and boats are the only options. Queen’s Highway runs along the east coast of the three major islands. This eastern area is home to most of Andros’s lodging, fishing, and tourist services, including blue hole trips, boating, bonefishing, and Andros Barrier Reef snorkeling tours.

Where to Stay: Small Hope Bay Lodge in Fresh Creek has 21 rustic, beachfront cabins hand-built from local coral rock and pine. Opened in 1960, the comfortable, family-run lodge is all-inclusive (meals, drinks, and activities) and designed for total relaxation. The lack of in-room television or Internet access leaves more time to bike, kayak, windsurf, or nap in a hammock. Another Fresh Creek option is Sunset Point Houseboat. Moored in the tidal waters, the private houseboat has three bedrooms and a wraparound deck. Rent kayaks and snorkel gear on-site to explore inland blue holes, including Helios, which only is accessible by boat via Fresh Creek.

What to Eat and Drink: On Mangrove Cay, the middle of Andros’s three major islands, stop at fishing guide Shine Greene’s waterfront Conch Shack for fresh conch ceviche and a cold bottle of Kalik, self-described “beer of the Bahamas.” In Davis Creek, just north of Andros Town on North Andros, sip tropical drinks on the oceanfront dock at Brigadiers Restaurant.

What to Buy: Tour the Androsia batik factory in Fresh Creek to see 100 percent cotton fabric hand-printed with nature-inspired designs (such as shells, fish, and flowers) and hand-dyed in vibrant colors (including magenta, green mango, fire coral, and deep aqua). Buy the Bahamian batik fabric by the yard or as clothing, pillows, drawstring backpacks, tablecloths, and more at the factory outlet store. Take a factory tour, or sign up in advance for a batik lesson.

What to Watch Before You Go: This webisode from the National Geographic Channel’s Diving the Labyrinth series offers a quick overview of Bahamian blue holes and an inside look at an Andros underwater cave.

Practical Tip: Pack insect repellent, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants to help ward off Andros’s big-three biting bugs: mosquitoes, sand flies, and “doctor” flies (greenhead horseflies). To dive the deeper blue holes, advanced scuba certification is required.

Helpful Links: The Islands of the Bahamas, Andros Conservancy and Trust, and National Geographic Explorers Blue Holes Project

Fun Fact: Blue holes can extend hundreds or thousands of feet down in a labyrinth of passages. There are several different kinds of these underwater caves, collectively known as blue holes due to the deep-blue hue often produced when the sky reflects on their surface water. Some blue holes may appear muddy or dark on the surface, yet the water below is typically very clear.

Foliage, Festivals, and Food

Picture of a float, or "danjiri," during the Danjiri Festival in Kishiwada, Osaka, Japan

Photograph by Kazuhiro Nogi, flickr

Osaka, Japan

Autumn combines three of Osakans’ favorite things: food (the city is known as Japan’s food capital); colorful ginkgo and maple leaves; and dozens of festivals and special events, including the Osaka Marathon (October 25). The must-see fall festival is Danjiri Matsuri (“float-pulling”), a 300-year-old competition pitting neighborhoods across Japan. September 13-14, watch as teams of 500 to 1,000 men use ropes to pull and steer intricately carved, wooden danjiri (traditional floats) through the narrow streets. Each float is topped with dancers, musicians, and a Daiku-gata (director), who shouts out instructions to keep the careening, four-ton float and the crew from toppling on tight turns.

“Osaka could be seen as slightly chaotic and disorienting at first,” says Aria Aoyama, international public relations manager for the Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau, “but, in my eyes, it is a living treasure box; [it] just takes a bit of digging beneath its surface. And it is in fall that you get the best of everything, so you can’t go wrong.”

How to Get Around: Fly directly into Osaka’s Kansai International Airport or ride the bullet train west from Tokyo (2 hours and 30 minutes) to Shin-Osaka Station. Trains connect both locations to the city center. Travel in and around the city by subway, waterbus, and the Japan Rail (JR) Osaka Loop Line. Buy a two-day Osaka Amazing Pass for unlimited transportation and one-time admission to nearly 30 attractions on two consecutive days.

Where to Stay: Hotel Minoo, located at the entrance to forested Meiji’no Mori Mino Park, has a rooftop onsen (hot spring) Sky Bath, plus an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley. From the hotel, follow the park’s main hiking trail along the Minoo River to see brilliant fall foliage, Ryuanji Temple, and Mino Waterfall. The park entrance is less than 30 minutes from Osaka by train.

What to Eat or Drink: Osakans’ historical obsession with food goes into overdrive during fall harvest season. Sample the region’s fresh bounty (vegetables, beef, and seafood) at a kappo (a Japanese mash-up of “cook” and “cut”) restaurant. Osaka is the birthplace of kappo, a casual and conversational culinary style where patrons sit at the counter and watch the chefs prepare their meals. Several kappos are located on Hozenji Yokocho, an alley lined with Washoku (Japanese cuisine) restaurants.

What to Buy: Osaka lays claim to being the first city in Japan to import and make Amechan (candy). One of the first confectioneries, Toyoshita, has been producing its signature vegetable- and fruit-flavored sweets since 1872. Each candy is shaped like its fruit or vegetable flavor, including melon, carrot, radish, and pumpkin. Watch the production process and buy freshly made candies and throat lozenges at the Toyoshita factory located near the JR Bishoen Station.

Practical Tip: “Amechan taberu?” (“Do you want a candy?”) is a common, friendly greeting in Osaka. If a local offers you a piece of candy, accept it with a smile.

What to Read Before You Go: Download the Osaka Government Tourism Bureau’s free English-language official Osaka guidebook and city and area maps (including a railway route map).

Helpful Links: Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau and Japan National Tourism Organization

Fun Fact: Fall is the prime season to try the traditional Meiji’no Mori Mino treat: Momiji (maple leaf tempura). Vendors stationed along the park’s main hiking trail deep-fry bright red and orange maple leaves in sweetened tempura batter to create the portable and crunchy snack.

Visit the Newest U.S. World Heritage Site

Picture of San Antonio Missions in San Antonio, Texas

Photograph by Richard Nowitz, National Geographic Image Collection/Alamy

San Antonio, Texas

Built in the 18th century by Spanish Franciscan priests, the five San Antonio Missions—Concepción, Espada, San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo), San José, and San Juan—were designated on July 5 as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The missions, which represent the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in the U.S., are the newest addition to the World Heritage List in the United States and the first in Texas. “[The missions] are very much a part of what continues to shape the community and personality of San Antonio,” says Susan Snow, an archaeologist for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park who has been coordinating community efforts to secure World Heritage status since 2007. “To bike down the Mission Reach of the River Walk in the cooling weather and see the distinct architecture from afar or attend a mariachi mass in the heart of one of its churches really pulls you into the soul of locals honoring their heritage.”

How to Get Around: Walking and biking are the best ways to visit the missions, which were built in two- to three-mile increments (north to south) along the San Antonio River. The Mission Reach section of the famous San Antonio River Walk includes an eight-mile hiking and biking trail that runs from just south of downtown to Mission Espada. Designated portals connect the trail to the four southernmost missions: Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada. Parking and bike-share stations are available at each portal. The Alamo is located north of the other missions, along the downtown section of the River Walk. By car, follow the Mission Trails route (look for the green shepherd’s crook light poles) connecting all five missions.

Where to Stay: Hotel Emma is the latest edition to Pearl, a culinary-focused urban village centered in and around the historic 1881 Pearl Brewery complex. Scheduled to open October 1, the 146-room luxury hotel is conveniently located next to the River Walk in Midtown. Common areas and some guest rooms (including the top-floor suites with private terraces) include original brewery design elements such as industrial equipment reengineered as light fixtures, cast-iron spiral staircases, and turn-of-the-century exposed brick walls.

What to Eat or Drink: Chef Jeff Balfour’s new Southerleigh (opened April 2015) celebrates San Antonio and Texas Gulf Coast tastes and traditions. The fine-dining brewpub is named for the predominantly southerly winds on the Texas coast and is housed in the historic Pearl Brewery, marking the first time since 2001 that beer is produced on-site. Mains (such as pan-seared grilled snapper, seafood boils, and smothered Parker Creek Ranch fried chicken with red-eye gravy) are served family style. Best deal: The Cellarman’s Lunch Pail offers an entrée and side for $12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Closed Sundays.

What to Buy: Brick Marketplace at Blue Star Arts Complex hosts funky and fun Sunday (12 to 5 p.m.) and first Friday (7 p.m.) markets. Dance, eat, and browse the eclectic selection of items, including vintage vinyl records, clothing, and sand art terrariums.

Practical Tip: Plan to visit Mission San José and Mission Concepción in time for one of the day’s free guided tours. The other missions may offer tours if staff is available. Check at the information center when you arrive.

What to Watch Before You Go: This 50-minute video (Bennett-Watt Media, 2014) provides an overview of how Spanish frontier missions helped to shape Texas and the American West.

Helpful Links: San Antonio MissionsSan Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Travel Texas

Fun Fact: The Alamo complex is a Texas state historic site, but the other mission churches are active Catholic parishes. Except for during weddings and special events, visitors dressed in proper church attire are welcome to respectfully attend weekend Mass. (Check the Archdiocese of San Antonio website for times and information.) Most Sundays, Mission Concepción—the oldest unrestored stone church in the U.S.—and Mission San José offer a bilingual (Spanish and English) Mass accompanied by mariachi music.

Staff Tip: Stay at a hotel near the River Walk (I liked the Marriott San Antonio Riverwalk), take the Rio San Antonio cruise to get acclimated to the area, then explore it on foot in the evening when it’s cooler. Looking for a spot to dine with less of a touristy vibe? Try the Alamo Street Eats. The gathering of three to four food trucks opens at 5 p.m. daily and includes menu items like the Attaboy Burger (ridiculously good) and the Winner Winner Chicken Dinner (fried chicken and waffles that are the perfect mix of salty and sweet). A live DJ spinning hits from the ’80s and ’90s is bound to get you grooving in your chair. The recent addition of the San Antonio Missions to the list of Unesco World Heritage sites also makes it a reason to explore. Mission Concepción is probably the best preserved and has a few shady spots for catching your breath, along with information boards to help you understand the history. —Heather Greenwood Davis, @GreenwoodDavis, National Geographic Traveler contributor

Learn About Whaling History “In the Heart of the Sea”

Picture of Whaling Museum in Nantucket, Massachusetts

Photograph by Claudia Uripos, eStock Photo

Nantucket, Massachusetts

The upcoming Warner Bros. film In the Heart of the Sea (scheduled release in December 2015) chronicles the 1819 tragedy of the whaleship Essex. Survivor stories from the Nantucket-based ship, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the South Pacific, inspired Herman Melville’s epic tale Moby-Dick. Discover the true story and learn about the island’s whaling tradition at the Nantucket Whaling Museum’s major new exhibition “Stove by a Whale: 20 Men, 3 Boats, 96 Days.” The exhibit (open through November 2016) includes props and period costumes from the film, plus interactive experiences. “The sound of the water echoes in the hall to help people think about what it might sound like to be out at sea for that long,” says Lindsay Scouras, manager of communications at the Nantucket Historical Association. “There’s also a replica whaleboat you can step in. A screen in front projects quotes from some of the survivors’ accounts, and the surrounding walls look like water. The whole experience helps you understand what it might have been like to be out in the ocean with nothing in sight … how quiet and lonely that must have been.”

How to Get Around: Nantucket is about an hour south of Hyannis via the Hy-Line or Steamship Authority high-speed ferry. The Whaling Museum is downtown, within easy walking distance of both ferry-landing docks. To travel beyond downtown, rent a bike, ride TheWAVE public shuttle bus (through October 12), or use taxis.

Where to Stay: The 11-room Anchor Inn, built in 1806 by Captain Archaelus Hammond of the whaleship Cyrus, is run by owner-innkeepers Charles and Ann Balas. The couple purchased the downtown inn (and the two whaleboat oars and harpoons inside) as their home more than 30 years ago. Rooms are named for various whaling ships. Guests can view “their” ship’s actual log at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Research Library and Whitney Gallery. Best bet: Ask Charles to share his recipe for the muffins (flavors include blueberry, cranberry, and apricot) served daily in the inn’s private side garden.

What to Eat or Drink: Fog Island Cafe is an unpretentious and affordable (for Nantucket) breakfast and lunch spot close to the ferry terminals and the Whaling Museum. Breakfast (try the Bacodo, a bacon, avocado, and cheese omelet) or lunch (including a Nantucket Fishcake sandwich with side) will run you $20 or less. Opens 7 a.m. daily and closes at 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

What to Buy: The Nantucket Historical Association Museum Shop stocks a number of whaling and whale-related items, including the documentary Nantucket: A Film By Ric Burns (Nantucket Historical Association, 2011) and a reproduction “whale tooth” scrimshaw made from hand-inked and engraved ivory polymer.

Practical Tip: The 90-minute “In the Heart of the Sea” walking tour leaves from the Whaling Museum lobby daily at 2:15 p.m. Tours are limited to 20 people, and tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis ($10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students). To avoid being disappointed, purchase tour tickets when the museum opens at 10 a.m.

What to Read Before You Go: The upcoming Warner Bros. movie is based on In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (Penguin, 2000), written by Nantucket resident Nathaniel Philbrick and winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Helpful Links: Nantucket Historical Association, Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, Nantucket Visitor Services, and Nantucket Chronicle

Fun Fact: One of the few known artifacts to survive the Essex disaster is a piece of twine wound by crewmember Benjamin Lawrence. While lost at sea for 96 days, Lawrence added little pieces of hair and fibers to the twine. The artifact is displayed in an ivory frame at the Whaling Museum.

Staff Tip: Hop on the free shuttle from the visitors center downtown for a ride to Cisco Brewers, where you can take a tour of the island brewery and sample small-batch craft beers, including Whale’s Tale Pale Ale and Grey Lady Ale. The owners of the brewery also run the Nantucket Vineyard and Triple Eight Distillery, if wine or spirits are more to your liking. The family-friendly brewery provides a convivial outdoor scene with picnic tables, live music, and food trucks selling lobster rolls and tacos. Closer to town, time your walk to Jetties Beach for sunset. Once there, pull up a chair and dig your toes in the sand at Jetties Beach Bar & Restaurant, a festive, open-air spot with acoustic guitar music, seafood, and frozen drinks. Then focus your gaze on the water and watch the fiery sun slip into the horizon and turn the sky into a kaleidoscope of colors. —Susan O’Keefe, @sokeefetrav, associate editor, National Geographic Traveler

New Year’s Day 2008 Celebrations

Picture of Ethiopians waving the Ethiopian flag as they celebrate the arrival of their new year in Addis Ababa

Photograph by ROBERTO SCHMIDT

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

September 11

In Ethiopia, this September 11 is Enkutatash (“gift of jewels”), otherwise known as New Year’s Day 2008. The East African nation follows its own calendar, known as the Ge’ez, which is based on the ancient Coptic calendar. A different interpretation of when the birth of Jesus was announced accounts for the more-than-seven-year gap between the Ge’ez and the Gregorian calendar. And since Enkutatash traditionally coincides with the end of the rainy season on the Horn of Africa, as well as the Feast of John the Baptist, there are three reasons to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.

The party is particularly spirited in and around the capital city, Addis Ababa, where residents light bundles of sticks called chibo to make neighborhood bonfires. “Ethiopian holidays are the best—Everything is centered around food, family, and friends,” says Xavier Curtis, co-founder with Eliza Richman of AddisEats. “Every holiday is celebrated with meat, either raw or cooked, at home or at a butcher house. Since the New Year’s celebrations do not have as much of a religious aspect to it, this is one of the best times of year to get out and enjoy the festivities with everyone else. They won’t be at church or at home; they’ll be out eating and drinking.”

How to Get Around: Arrange airport transfers, local transportation (taxi or car service), and guided tours or private tour guides through your hotel. Hiring a taxi driver for a full day (about $75) is the most convenient option. For an insider’s view of the city, book the AddisEats full-day tour (9 a.m. to about 7 p.m.). Itineraries are customized and can include traveling by public transportation and visiting markets and restaurants catering to locals.

Where to Stay: Sleek, modern hotels are springing up across Addis Ababa as part of the city’s ongoing construction boom. The vintage Hilton Addis Ababa isn’t shiny or new, yet it does offer three essentials: a convenient location near the airport, city center, Ethnological Museum, and Ethiopia’s National Museum, which houses extraordinary paleontological artifacts such as the famous bones of human ancestor “Lucy”; secure and well-manicured grounds, including an outdoor pool; and reasonable rates (upgrade to an executive floor for expansive city or mountain views).

What to Eat or Drink: Sample a wide variety of local Ethiopian food, such as spongy injera (an unleavened pancake) made with teff flour, a grain native to Ethiopia, on an AddisEats food tour. The traditional New Year’s dish to try is doro wat (chicken stew). And while the national brew—fresh-roasted Ethiopian green-bean coffee—is prepared and served quickly at small jeubeuna bunna (coffee stands) and coffeehouses, make time for at least one Ethiopian coffee ceremony. The elaborate ritual can take two to three hours, and involves roasting, grinding, brewing, and drinking (three cups of progressively weaker) coffee.

What to Buy: Coffee beans, scarves, and other textiles made from hand-spun and handwoven cotton, and tightly coiled grass baskets and mats are among the locally produced items available in Addis Ababa markets. The biggest, the Merkato (New Market), is one of Africa’s largest open-air marketplaces: a mini-city jam-packed with vendors, shoppers, and a dizzying blend of odors, sights, and sounds. For safety’s sake, go with a local guide.

Cultural Tip: Traditionally, Ethiopians will not eat before inviting others gathered with them to join in. Honor the tradition by inviting your guides and drivers to eat with you by saying, “Enibla—Let us eat.”

What to Read Before You Go: The “gift of jewels” celebration commemorates the jewels the Queen of Sheba received upon returning home (thought by many scholars to be the Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia) after visiting King Solomon in Jerusalem. Tosca Lee’s novel The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen combines myth, biblical references, and detailed research to tell Sheba’s tale.

Helpful Links: AddisEats Food Tours & Culinary Adventures and National Geographic Ethiopia Guide

Fun Fact: Gursha is the Ethiopian tradition of feeding another person by hand. Family members, friends, and even strangers commonly place small handfuls into each other’s mouths as an act of kindness. If someone makes a gesture to feed you, graciously accept the food as you would a welcoming hug or other friendly greeting.

Staff Tip: Addis is a city in perpetual motion, everyone walking, driving, and socializing late into the night. Their fuel? The drink said to have been born in Ethiopia: coffee. Cultivated in the highlands for centuries (and still growing wild in some regions), coffee plays a central part in daily life here, most notably in coffee ceremonies visitors can experience at hotels, guesthouses, some restaurants, and local markets. Join one, and you’ll watch a woman in traditional dress roast the coffee beans in a brazier, then grind them by hand with a mortar and pestle. She’ll deposit the grounds in a high-necked ceramic pot called a jebena to boil. When the coffee is ready, the hostess will pour it into tiny ceramic cups for consumption alongside snacks such as roasted barley, peanuts, and popcorn—a full-bodied taste of ancient Ethiopia. —Jayne Wise, senior editor, National Geographic Traveler

Dijon International Gastronomy Fair

Picture of Burgundy, France

Photograph by Andrew Bain/Lonely Planet Images

Dijon, France

October 30-November 11

First held in 1921, the Dijon International Gastronomy Fair is Burgundy’s biggest event and one of the six largest fairs in France. The combination trade fair and culinary festival attracts some 200,000 professional and amateur chefs, restaurateurs, and foodies from around the world. See cooking demonstrations, attend workshops, and sample wines and foods from French and international vendors, including this year’s featured country, Chile. The schedule also includes multiple top chef competitions, including the National Grand Prize of Gastronomy in pastry and chocolate (November 2), and, for the first time, honors for the best lemon meringue pie in France (November 7). Also new for 2015: Preview the future Cité International de la Gastronomie scheduled to open in 2018 on the grounds of Dijon’s former General Hospital. The culinary hub will become the fourth such complex in France (the others are in Lyon, Rungis, and Tours). Plans call for multiple exposition rooms and restaurants, a wine pavilion, a hotel and residential housing units, a multiplex cinema, and more.

How to Get Around: Dijon is only an hour and 40 minutes from Paris by train. The closest airport is Dole-Jura Airport, located about 30 miles southeast of Dijon. If arriving at the airport, take a taxi or bus to the Dole Ville Train Station to connect to the Dijon-bound train. In Dijon, walk and use the efficient public bus system.

Where to Stay: The atmospheric Hotel Philippe le Bon has 41 rooms spread over three period residences, the oldest built in the 15th century. Request a room facing the interior Gothic courtyard for the quiet. Or, if climbing winding stairs isn’t an issue, book a junior suite in the oldest building for the timbered ceilings and historic charm.

What to Eat or Drink: The region’s signature aperitif is Kir, named for Félix Kir, the popular mayor of Dijon who died in 1968. A classic Kir is made with crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) and Aligoté, Burgundy’s second white wine after Chardonnay. Variations include substituting de mûre (blackberry) or de pêche (peach) for the crème de cassis. The most popular twist on the original is the Kir Royale, made with ice-cold sparkling crémant de Bourgogne or champagne instead of Aligoté, and served in a champagne flute.

What to Buy: The original Maille Moutarde boutique, opened in 1845, isn’t the most affordable place to buy Dijon’s famous mustard (local supermarkets have the best prices). It’s worth the trip, however, for the samples and the selection: dozens of different mustards, including apricot and curry spices, fig and coriander, and gingerbread and chestnut honey. Purchase Maille on tap (it’s expertly hand-drawn into earthenware jugs); mustard gift boxes and accessories; plus vinegars, oils and dressings, and other Maille items. Packing and shipping available. Closed Sundays.

What to Read Before You Go: Renowned food writer M. F. K. Fisher’s evocative memoir Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon captures the Burgundian passion for food and wine, and for sharing both.

Helpful Links: Dijon Tourism and Burgundy Tourism

Fun Fact: Dijon’s good-luck charm and symbol is La Chouette, the small owl carved into a pillar on the left side of Église Notre-Dame (Church of Notre Dame). To help visitors navigate their way between 22 of the city’s historic sites, the Tourist Office created the Parcours de la Chouette (Owl’s Trail). The route is marked by little owls embedded in the pavement. Pick up a trail map at the Tourist Office or download the app, and be sure to rub the original Notre Dame owl (trail stop no. 9) for good luck.

Staff Tip: Dijon has long been famous, of course, for its mustard. Stop by La Moutarderie Fallot for a tour through the mustard-making process, then sample all the different flavors at the mustard bar: tarragon, basil, walnut, Provençal, gingerbread, and, my favorite, black currant. —Barbara Noe, senior editor, National Geographic Travel Books

Reader’s Choice: Follow the Three Castle Route

Picture of Turaida Castle in Sigulda, Latvia

Photograph by Gatis Pāvils, Flickr

Sigulda, Latvia

Drive, bike, or walk the Three Castle Route to visit medieval castles and ruins, ride the only cable car in the Baltics, and see caves and sandstone cliffs in Gauja National Park. The 19-mile route passes the castles and other historic sites in Sigulda, Krimulda, and Turaida and offers an excellent introduction to Latvian geology and history, says Laura Konstante, director of the Sigulda Tourism Information Centre. “In the Sigulda Medieval Castle, it is possible to try medieval weapons, and in Krimulda Manor, local winemaker Jānis Mikāns will offer you a taste of local fruit-and-berry wines,” she adds. Best bet: Visit in early to mid-October for a bird’s-eye view of the Gauja River Valley fall foliage from the Sigulda Aerial Cableway.

How to Get Around: Sigulda is 40 miles northeast of Riga, Latvia’s capital and largest city. The trip by train, bus, or car takes about an hour. If you’re driving the Three Castle Route, rent a car at Riga International Airport. If you want to bike or walk the route, take the Riga-Valga train from Riga to Sigulda or the bus from Riga’s International Bus Station, and rent a bike in town.

Where to Stay: Built in 1889 to accommodate passengers on the newly opened Riga-Petersburg railway, the 43-room Hotel Sigulda is a historic and convenient option located near the train station and Sigulda Medieval Castle. A new wing, added in 2001 and connected to the original hotel by a glass breezeway, includes a recreation center with a small indoor pool, sauna, and steam bath. For a bit more charm, request a room in the historic stone building.

What to Eat and Drink: Dishes to try include fresh, local mushrooms; sour cabbage soup; and traditional rye bread. Sigulda also is known for its mineral water and locally brewed beers, such as Valmiermuiža. Have lunch or dinner at the thatched-roof Aparjods restaurant. After your meal, get dessert (assorted pastries and cakes, including tiramisu, cheesecake, and grapefruit torte) and coffee at the tiny Mr. Biskvīts café located opposite the railway station.

What to Buy: Sigulda’s signature souvenir and city symbol is a wooden walking stick. Making the curved-handle sticks became a local cottage industry in the early 20th century, when walking the area’s mountain trails became a popular summer tourist activity. Full-size and miniature wooden sticks adorned with decorative patterns are available for sale around town. After purchasing your souvenir, snap a requisite selfie standing among the larger-than-life replica canes in Walking Stick Park.

What to Read Before You Go: The surrealist novel Flesh-Coloured Dominoes (Arcadia Books, English translation, 2014) by acclaimed Latvian writer Zigmunds Skujins alternates between 18th-century life in the Baltics and the Russian and German occupations during World War II.

Practical Tip: The euro is the official currency, and credit cards are widely accepted in cities. Carry cash when visiting smaller villages and towns.

Helpful Links: Sigulda Tourism, Gauja National Park, and Latvia Tourism

Fun Fact: The Rose of Turaida is a local legend based on the death of Maiji Greif, who was murdered in Gutman’s cave in 1620 and buried at the church hill cemetery in Turaida. According to the tale, Maiji, the so-called Rose of Turaida, was romantically involved with Viktor Heil, the Sigulda Castle gardener. Their love story ended tragically yet continues to inspire Latvian brides and grooms to lay flowers at Maiji’s memorial in Turaida as part of their wedding ceremonies.

Staff Tips: If you love art nouveau, take a walk in the historic center of Riga, the capital of Latvia, which has the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in the world and is recognized on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Pick up a map from the Riga Art Nouveau Centre and check out the Art Nouveau Museum. —Marilyn Terrell, @Marilyn_Res, chief researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Riga is my favorite Baltic city for its art nouveau architecture, considered the best in Europe. The Latvian Occupation Museum provides a fascinating presentation of the nation’s history, including a reconstructed gulag. I enjoyed touring the Central Market, where locals shop for practically everything in a sprawling former zeppelin hangar, then sampling a little of each Latvian dish at the cafeteria-style Lido restaurant. —Christine Blau, @Chris_Blau, researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Some of the best—OK, the best—hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted was at Emīla Gustava Šokolāde in Riga, Latvia. Across from the majestic National Opera House, the chocolate shop/café serves intensely thick, rich hot chocolate in tiny cups, with a small glass of water on the side. Dark-wood paneling and marble counter tops evoke the belle époque. —Amy Alipio, @amytravels, features editor, National Geographic Traveler

 

 

Nat Geo’s Best Trips 2016

So here are National Geographic Magazine’s top travel picks for 2016 – enjoy!

                                                                                Ned


Côte d’Or, Burgundy, France

https://i1.wp.com/images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/923/cache/bow-burgundy-france-landscape_92364_600x450.jpg

Photograph by Günter Gräfenhain, SIME

 

Going, going… gone? Incredible landmarks around the world that may soon be lost forever

Threatened by the elements and damage from thousands of tourists, some of the world’s most stunning sites could be damaged beyond repair or destroyed forever.

Many of these incredible buildings and areas of natural beauty are under UNESCO protection, with the most endangered featured on the World Heritage in Danger list.

There are 48 locations that UNESCO is particularly concerned about, including the picturesque archaeological site of Chan Chan in Peru, which is at risk from natural erosion, the Great Barrier Reef and Florida’s Everglades National Park. A careful eye is also being kept on the the picturesque archaeological site of Chan Chan in Peru, the historical Monuments of Mtskheta in Georgia, and the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem. The main threat to these is ‘serious deterioration of the stonework and frescoes’, say experts.

Here are 18 places you should visit now… before it’s too late.

There are many reasons that the stunning rose-coloured Petra in Jordan could soon look a lot different in a few years time. These include weather erosion, from wind and rain attacking the rocky surface, and also from tourists touching the iconic Al Khazneh temple surface

There are many reasons that the stunning rose-coloured Petra in Jordan could soon look a lot different in a few years time. These include weather erosion, from wind and rain attacking the rocky surface, and also from tourists touching the iconic Al Khazneh temple surface

The unique Melnikov House in Moscow may stand out among other buildings due to its unusual cylindrical design, but it might not stand at all for much longer 

The unique Melnikov House in Moscow may stand out among other buildings due to its unusual cylindrical design, but it might not stand at all for much longer

The building, currently inhabited by the house designer's granddaughter, is facing threat of collapse due to excavation that has started for an underground car park nearby. Apparently cracks are sadly already visible on the white building

The building, currently inhabited by the house designer’s granddaughter, is facing threat of collapse due to excavation that has started for an underground car park nearby. Apparently cracks are sadly already visible on the white building

Threatened by a major earthquake in 2003, Iran's ancient citadel of Bam has been in a worrying state over the years. Thankfully it has now been taken off Unesco's 'World Heritage in Danger' list but  it is feared the citadel will never be restored to its former glory

Threatened by a major earthquake in 2003, Iran’s ancient citadel of Bam has been in a worrying state over the years. Thankfully it has now been taken off Unesco’s ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list but it is feared the citadel will never be restored to its former glory

It may be the largest palace in the world, but the Unesco protected Royal Palace of Caserta in Italy is in desperate need of repairs. Part of the roof fell in last year and it requires renovations 

It may be the largest palace in the world, but the Unesco protected Royal Palace of Caserta in Italy is in desperate need of repairs. Part of the roof fell in last year and it requires renovations

It may be home to the longest stretch of coral reef in the world, as well as featuring more than 1,500 species of fish and more than 175 species of birds, according to Unesco. However, earlier this year a survey of the reef found damaged coral and that many of its animal species, including large green turtles, are threatened. Scientists say the reef could be extinct by 2050

It may be home to the longest stretch of coral reef in the world, as well as featuring more than 1,500 species of fish and more than 175 species of birds, according to Unesco. However, earlier this year a survey of the reef found damaged coral and that many of its animal species, including large green turtles, are threatened. Scientists say the reef could be extinct by 2050

Originally created in the 17th century to guard the city, Vauban's Fortifications in Briançon, France, have been given Unesco world heritage status, but they need further attention to protect them from decay

Originally created in the 17th century to guard the city, Vauban’s Fortifications in Briançon, France, have been given Unesco world heritage status, but they need further attention to protect them from decay

The fascinating cave paintings in Altamira, Spain, were discovered in the 1880s and quickly became a huge tourist attraction. However the cave system, containing ice-age paintings of bison, bulls and other animals, was shut due to carbon dioxide in tourists' breath starting to damage the paintings. Limited openings have been conducted over the years since and last year saw five visitors selected at random to visit the cave, instead of the nearby replicas. This is the first time members of the public were allowed inside the cave in 12 years

The fascinating cave paintings in Altamira, Spain, were discovered in the 1880s and quickly became a huge tourist attraction. However the cave system, containing ice-age paintings of bison, bulls and other animals, was shut due to carbon dioxide in tourists’ breath starting to damage the paintings. Limited openings have been conducted over the years since and last year saw five visitors selected at random to visit the cave, instead of the nearby replicas. This is the first time members of the public were allowed inside the cave in 12 years

While it may not be that well known, Little Green Street in Kentish Town in London is one of the only intact Georgian streets left in the city. The cobbled road is at risk of being destroyed by developers. They want to construct on the land behind, which has caused fears that the trucks will destroy the tiny street that  survived the bombing of World War II. A group including artists, writers, actors and musicians are campaigning for the road to be preserved

While it may not be that well known, Little Green Street in Kentish Town in London is one of the only intact Georgian streets left in the city. The cobbled road is at risk of being destroyed by developers. They want to construct on the land behind, which has caused fears that the trucks will destroy the tiny street that survived the bombing of World War II. A group including artists, writers, actors and musicians are campaigning for the road to be preserved

It may be one of the Seven World Wonders but nearly a third of the Great Wall of China has completely disappeared, according to a  report this year. Natural erosion, human destruction and a lack of protection means that a total of 1,220 miles of the wall, which dates back more than 2000 years, has vanished

It may be one of the Seven World Wonders but nearly a third of the Great Wall of China has completely disappeared, according to a report this year. Natural erosion, human destruction and a lack of protection means that a total of 1,220 miles of the wall, which dates back more than 2000 years, has vanished

 You may recognise this angular formation from Instagram as the Australian landscape popular with posing tourists. But this could soon be able to change as earlier this year Wedding Cake Rock near Bundeena in New South Wales was shut for investigations into its safety      The rock was found to be precariously balancing on the edge of the cliff and severely undercut and in danger of crumbling into the sea in the near future

You may recognise this angular formation from Instagram as the Australian landscape popular with posing tourists. But this could soon change as earlier this year Wedding Cake Rock near Bundeena in New South Wales was shut for investigations into its safety. The rock was found to be precariously balancing on the edge of the cliff and severely undercut, meaning it’s in danger of crumbling into the sea in the near future

The stunning Everglades National Park in Florida suffered huge damage during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and deterioration of water flow and quality due to agricultural and urban development. Continued degradation of the site has seen it placed on the World Heritage in Danger list due to the loss of marine habitat and decline in marine species

The stunning Everglades National Park in Florida suffered huge damage during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and deterioration of water flow and quality due to agricultural and urban development. Continued degradation of the site has seen it placed on the World Heritage in Danger list due to the loss of marine habitat and decline in marine species

Listed as one of the World Heritage In Danger sites, the picturesque archaeological site of Chan Chan in Peru is at risk from natural erosion

Listed as one of the World Heritage In Danger sites, the picturesque archaeological site of Chan Chan in Peru is at risk from natural erosion

Distinctive gasometers have become the norm during the 200 years the UK has been using gas. These gas holders were first used to store coal gas and later natural gas for  urban areas, but since the 1960s, nearly all have become obsolete, with many dismantled

Distinctive gasometers have become the norm during the 200 years the UK has been using gas. These gas holders were first used to store coal gas and later natural gas for urban areas, but since the 1960s, nearly all have become obsolete, with many dismantled

The Birthplace of Jesus in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (Palestine) was also placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger as it is suffering from damages due to water leaks. The main church's roof structure is also said to be highly vulnerable from lack of maintenance and repair

The Birthplace of Jesus in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (Palestine) was also placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger as it is suffering from damages due to water leaks. The main church’s roof structure is also said to be highly vulnerable from lack of maintenance and repair

East Rennell in the Soloman Islands is the largest raised coral atoll in the world (pictured) and was listed as an endangered world heritage site by Unesco in 2013 due to the threat of ongoing logging

East Rennell in the Soloman Islands is the largest raised coral atoll in the world (pictured) and was listed as an endangered world heritage site by Unesco in 2013 due to the threat of ongoing logging

The Historical Monuments of Mtskheta also recently made the Unesco World Heritage in Danger list with 'serious deterioration of the stonework and frescoes' cited as the main threat

The Historical Monuments of Mtskheta also recently made the Unesco World Heritage in Danger list with ‘serious deterioration of the stonework and frescoes’ cited as the main threat

The General Cemetery of Santiago occupies 210 acres north of the city, and contains more than two million tombs of Chilean presidents, politicians, artists, and athletes. However the resting place has been subject to substantial damages caused by the 2010 earthquake. Most of the damaged structures have not been stabilised or repaired. As a result it has been included on the 2016 World Monuments Watch list

The General Cemetery of Santiago occupies 210 acres north of the city, and contains more than two million tombs of Chilean presidents, politicians, artists, and athletes. However the resting place has been subject to substantial damages caused by the 2010 earthquake. Most of the damaged structures have not been stabilised or repaired. As a result it has been included on the 2016 World Monuments Watch list

Abu Mena is one of the most important early Christian holy sites in the world as it's built over the tomb of the Christian martyr, Menas of Alexandria. However, agricultural development in the desert region has caused a rise in the surrounding water table, which has led to the clay foundations becoming unstable

Abu Mena is one of the most important early Christian holy sites in the world as it’s built over the tomb of the Christian martyr, Menas of Alexandria. However, agricultural development in the desert region has caused a rise in the surrounding water table, which has led to the clay foundations becoming unstable

Happy travelling people 😀

                                         Ned

9 Holiday Spots that are Better (and Cheaper) than the Places You Really Wanted to Go

Thanks to the Money Traveller for this article.


These less-travelled locales offer many of the perks of the big-name hotspots with fewer tourists. Even better, because they’re less popular, they’re often more affordable.

La Paz, Mexico

Design Pics Inc/Alamy – On the water off Espiritu Santo Island

INSTEAD OF: Los Cabos
WHY HERE? La Paz is located on the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula, and it has the same laid-back vibe as California’s West Coast beach cities. The landscape is spectacular, from the marine-mammal-rich waters to a desert worthy of an Ansel Adams photo. The culinary scene is growing too, with enough upscale restaurants to rival those in Los Cabos, 87 miles (and a $25 shuttle ride) away. One caveat: Go before mid-July. Even the locals flee the August heat.
Average summer hotel rate: $117 vs. $257 in Los Cabos

La Paz, Mexico: Where to Stay & What to Do

Aurora Photos/Alamy – Fruit for sale on Tecelote Beach

STAY: A simple room at Hotel Perla, a 1940s landmark with bay views on the Malecón (boardwalk), goes for $75 a night. If you want amenities such as daily room service and an infinity pool, try the Costa Baja Resort & Spa (from $243), which runs 45%-off specials when you book more than 90 days in advance. Overall, the average double-occupancy hotel room in La Paz is $117, less than half what it costs in Los Cabos.
DO: Sign up for a day dive with PADI diving center Cortez Club ($140). Nearby Los Islotes is known for its sea lion colony; you might even spot schools of hammerhead sharks at Marisla Seamount. If snorkeling is more your speed, bring your gear to the turquoise waters and sandy coves of Balandra, 15 minutes from downtown.La Paz offers an increasingly diverse menu of restaurants, from daring fusion to old-school Mexican street food, says editor Tomas Zyber of BajaInsider.com. Get a table for two at Las Tres Vírgenes, where dinner—wood-fire-grilled octopus and expertly prepared steaks—paired with wine costs under $100, Zyber notes. For cheap eats, line up with locals at Chino Tacos (dinner, $4 per person) on Antonio Navarro Street at the corner of Belisario Dominguez. Try the tacos al pastor (spit-grilled pork with cilantro, onions, and pineapple), carne asada, or spicy chorizo.

Dublin

Mikel Bilbao/Firstlight – The Temple Bar in the city’s cultural corner

INSTEAD OF: London
WHY HERE? Looking for some foreign culture but don’t want to brave a second language? There’s always London. But since it’s the most visited city in Europe, you’ll also find some of the continent’s most expensive hotels there (average cost: $268 a night). And then there’s Dublin. With its small-city feel and Irish charm, the capital is as easy to drink in as a smooth pint of Guinness. Best of all: The dollar is even stronger against the euro (up 23%) in the past year than it is vs. the pound (13%).

Dublin: Where to Stay & What to Do

Firstlight – The perfect Irish pairing: shellfish and Guiness

STAY: The hip new Dean Hotel (from $138), located downtown, is capped by a beautiful rooftop restaurant. If you don’t mind a 20-minute walk or a cab ride to the city center, opt for a private room ($80) at the Generato Dublin, a design-forward hostel housed in a former Irish folk-dancing hall, located across the River Liffey in Smithfield.
DO: The Irish will tell you that their literary legacy is every bit as distinguished as the Brits’, and they’ve got the names (Yeats, Beckett, Wilde) to make a case. If you’re in Dublin on June 16, you’ll be lucky enough to see the entire city celebrate native son James Joyce, who set his classic novel Ulysses here on that day.You can celebrate a different kind of artistry in the Creative Quarter—South William, Drury, Wicklow, and Exchequer streets—home to many boutiques and a great place to find authentic keepsakes. “Try the Irish Design Shop for tea towels and porcelain birdhouses or, 10 minutes away, Jam Art Factory, where you’ll find prints, artwork, and pottery,” says Emily Westbrooks, author of Delightful Dublin.When you’ve worn yourself out, you can rest your feet and your shopping bags at the recently opened Woollen Mills Eating House, serving Roaring Bay mussels and Howth cod (lunch, $25). If you’re looking to splurge, Dublin also has five Michelin-starred restaurants. Jonathan Epstein, president of travel company Celebrated Experiences, suggests Chapter One, where chef Ross Lewis serves up rabbit with Parma ham and cured salmon with Atlantic crab. A four-course dinner is $75. A year ago you’d have paid $97 for the same feast.

Palm Springs

Hal Bergman/Getty – A classic vista

INSTEAD OF: Los Angeles
WHY HERE? During the winter this city serves as Los Angeles’ playground, filled with weekenders taking advantage of the posh resorts and haute design scene. At this time of year you can have it almost to yourself. Summer in this desert oasis isn’t for everyone: The average June temperature is 87° F and highs can hit 110° (115° in August, when you really don’t want to visit). But there are plenty of ways to beat the heat, says Françoise Rhodes of TravelingwithFrancoise.com, whether it’s a morning hike through the nearby canyons or a lazy day by the pool.
Summer hotel rate: $105 vs. $156 in Los Angeles

Palm Springs: Where to Stay & What to Do

Lisa Corson/Gallerystock – Cabazon Dinosaurs Park.

STAY: At the Triada Palm Springs, a Spanish-hacienda-style property with a cabana-lined pool, rooms start at $109 a night, 48% less than in high season. The Avalon Hotel Palm Springs, fresh from a major renovation, is set amid palm-dotted courtyards, burbling fountains, and three swimming pools, and has a top-notch spa. Rooms start at $150; at the hotel’s sister property, Avalon Beverly Hills, they start at $279 for the same dates.
DO: The Indian Canyons, known for their stunning rock formations, make for a great morning hike, says Katy Carrier, founder of Palm Springs Style magazine. For shopping, head to the Uptown Design District, where you’ll find furniture and home decor items. Bon Vivant is known for its vintage glassware, while Just Modern has a large selection of mid-century-inspired furnishings and artwork, Carrier says. Palm Springs has also established its own film scene. The main film festival is in January, but from June 16 to 22 is the International ShortFest, which showcases more than 300 short films from more than 50 countries. When you’re ready for dinner, try the lobster ravioli at the decades-old Johnny Costa’s Ristorante (dinner, $50), says Rhodes. If you’re hungry for some true California roadside kitsch, pack a picnic and head to Cabazon Dinosaurs, about 20 miles west of the city.

Naxos, Greece

Age Fotostock/Alamy – The Temple of Apollo arch on Palatia Islet

INSTEAD OF: Santorini or Mykonos
WHY HERE? Naxos is anchored in the Aegean about halfway between Santorini and Mykonos, but it might as well be on another planet. The biggest of Greece’s Cycladic islands, Naxos is studded with lush mountains and valleys polka-dotted by white-washed homes, all surrounded by a ribbon of gorgeous beaches. It’s the kind of place that’s still rural enough to spot the occasional donkey trotting down a cobblestone street, not to mention acres of tiered vineyards and olive groves. Of course that means that just about every restaurant you find has a legitimate claim as a farm-to-table outpost.
Cruise-ship dockings a year: 16 vs. 512 in Santorini

Naxos, Greece: Where to Stay & What to Do

Kartouchken/Alamy – A local pottery store in the town of Apiranthos

STAY: Accommodations start at $25 a night, topping out around $360, whereas Santorini’s prices start at $90 and skyrocket to over $1,000, on Expedia.com. Rooms at the Pension Sofi, a cheerful blue-and-white guesthouse draped in bougainvillea vines, cost only $39 per person (two-night minimum). The 30 spacious rooms at the four-star Lagos Mare Hotel, with a pool, bar, and sea views, are a steal at $120, says Mina Agnos, a Greek travel expert with Travelive.
DO: The best way to explore Naxos is on foot. Agnos can set up a Naxian Apollo walking tour (from $38), which tracks the island’s history from ancient times to the present and includes town visits, archaeological sites, and a trip to the island’s collection of kouros statues, which date back to the 8th century B.C. Afterward, grab a waterfront table at Geomilo, which serves traditional Naxian dishes such as Kleftiko of Za, made with local lamb, and cod with a garlic puree (dinner, $20).

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Aaron Peterson/Alamy Kayaking under one of the park’s famous arches

INSTEAD OF: Traverse City, Mich.
WHY HERE? There are 407 national parks, and while it’s not the most celebrated, Michigan’s Pictured Rocks was the country’s first National Lakeshore. The park sits on 42 jaw-dropping miles of Lake Superior coastline that’s studded with eerie sand dunes, romantic waterfalls, and a stately lighthouse. But it’s the multicolored sandstone cliffs, which seem to change color with every flicker of sunshine, that are the main attraction. That and the price of admission: It’s free.

Pictured Rocks: Where to Stay & What to Do

Terry Donnelly/Alamy – The Au Sable Light Station is still in use

STAY: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is rugged territory; enjoy the park by roughing it. Pictured Rocks has three main camping grounds. Twelvemile Beach ($16), the most popular, features lake views through the trees. If you’d rather rest your head in a room with four walls, Munising, Mich., is about two miles away and features several family-owned properties. The Sunset Motel on the Bay (from $89) has free Wi-Fi and rooms with kitchenettes. In Traverse City hotels average over $150 a night.
DO: Get your bearings on one of Pictured Rocks’ iconic hikes, suggests Susan Reece, the park’s chief of interpretation and education. On the Chapel Falls trek, you’ll weave through beech and maple trees en route to cascading waterfalls and Chapel Rock, which looks like an open-air temple (albeit one with a pine tree growing out of the roof). You can also follow the 1½-mile hike to the Au Sable Light Station, on the edge of a picnic-worthy beach. Keep an eye out for deer, beaver, and other critters. The best way to see the park’s dramatic coastline is from the water: On a three-hour tour with Pictured Rocks Cruises ($37), a local park ranger will explain the area’s geology and history as you pass stunning formations such as the Painted Coves and Lover’s Leap.

Hanoi

Kaaarel/Getty – One of the city’s many ancient temples

INSTEAD OF: Bangkok
WHY HERE? At a time when so many Southeast Asian capitals are banking on what’s new, Hanoi still embraces its rich history and communist roots. True, the bustling city has its share of skyscrapers and mopeds, but you’ll also find French-inspired architecture and food—bonjour, bánh mì baguettes!—in its large Old Quarter. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, making a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house or the National Museum of Vietnamese History especially timely.
Annual tourists to Vietnam: 7.8 million vs. 16 million in Bangkok

Hanoi: Where to Stay & What to Do

Jonathan Siegel/Getty – Preparing CafÉ NÂu DA, traditional Vietnamese coffee

STAY: Rooms at the recently renovated 80-room Boss Legend Hotel start at $82. The five-star Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (from $225), housed in a sumptuous 1901 French colonial–style building, has hosted Charlie Chaplin, Graham Greene, and “Hanoi Jane” herself—Jane Fonda.
DO: Make the city’s Old Quarter, which dates back to the 11th century, your home base. At Q Cafe—or one of the hundreds of other coffee shops—you’ll find locals sitting on squat stools sipping café phe da, or Vietnamese iced coffee ($1) made with espresso and condensed milk. From there you can window-shop along the bustling city streets, where vendors sell anything from hardware supplies and birdcages to fine art. Stop in Ginkgo for graphic-printed T-shirts before slurping down a northern Vietnam staple, beef-based pho, at Tuyen Pho Cam ($3).When you’re ready to see a bit of the coastline, head to Ha Long Bay, three hours east of the city. Ha Long means “descending dragon,” and the 1,600 islets jutting out of the Gulf of Tonkin do look like the moss-covered spikes on a submerged water beast. Most hotels offer day or overnight excursions; Boss Legend’s day trip (from $45) includes lunch and kayaking.

Salt Lake City

John Pulsipher/Firstlight – Downtown, framed by the Wasatch Mountains

INSTEAD OF: Denver
WHY HERE? Salt Lake isn’t just a jumping-off point for skiers. Those snowcapped Wasatch Mountains also frame an urban playground that’s become home to a lively art, restaurant, and cocktail scene.
Daily rental car rates: from $28 vs. $45 in Denver

Salt Lake City: Where to Stay & What to Do

150528_TRA_SLC_FlyFishing

A. Barber – Fly fishing near Salt Lake City, Utah

STAY: Downtown has the best hotel selection. The Inn on the Hill (from $150) features 12 unique rooms and serves a complimentary hot breakfast. The Marriott Courtyard doesn’t have the same boutique charm, but it was just renovated this year and rates start at $99. Hotels in Salt Lake are a bargain in general: $106 a night vs. $136 a night in Denver.
DO: To sip your way through the city, head to the up-and-coming Sugar House neighborhood, full of early-1900s cottages and bungalows. The Sugar House Distillery, which makes small-batch vodkas and rums, offers free tours. Shades of Pale, a popular Utah Brewery, also opened a new facility three miles west in SoDo (South Downtown). If you’re looking to do some shopping, the Local Colors of Utah gallery is a co-op where you’ll find pottery, photography, jewelry, and paintings from area artists. When you’ve worked up an appetite, try the Fresco Italian Cafe (dinner, $35), where dishes such as seared polenta and sun-choke agnolotti are complemented by a spot-on Italian wine list, says Josh Rosenthal of TheSLCFoodie.com.There are also plenty of worthy day trips. New or expert anglers can sign up with Western Rivers Fly Fisher (from $315 for two), on the Provo River, about 50 miles to the southeast. The drive through the Wasatch Mountains alone is well worth it, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom. On Kayak.com cars rent for $28 a day in Salt Lake. In Denver, the average is $45 a day.

Cape Breton, Canada

Alamy – One of the residents of Highlands National Park

INSTEAD OF: New England
WHY HERE? Cape Breton, a 4,000-square-mile island that juts out into the Atlantic about 650 miles northeast of Portland, Maine, is known for its untamed coastline, charming inns, and deeply rooted Celtic culture. The island receives about 365,000 visitors annually; Cape Cod alone squeezes in more than 4 million. Just crossing the Canadian border will fatten your wallet, as loons have dropped 14% in value against the U.S. dollar over the past year.
Average hotel rate: $89 vs. $192 on Cape Cod

Cape Breton: Where to Stay & What to Do

Barrett & MacKay/Corbis – It’s easy to see how the Bras d’Or (arms of gold) lake got its name

STAY: The waterfront town of Baddeck makes a great launching point for the surrounding countryside. Hospitality options include cottages—from $67 a night on NovaScotia.com—and cozy family-owned properties such as the Baddeck Heritage House (from $91), built in the 1860s.
DO: Get out on the water. On half-day trips (from $55) with North River Kayak Tours, you’ll paddle alongside the giant sugar maples and peer up to scout for American bald eagle nests. If you’d prefer to stay on land, drive the cliff-hugging Cabot Trail, the 185-mile road that makes a loop around the island’s northwestern region and offers prime whale-watching pit stops. Want to get even closer to a great ocean mammal? Sign up for a snorkeling trip with Captain Zodiac (from $40) in Cheticamp, located on the island’s northwestern border, to bob alongside minke, pilot, and fin whales.For dinner, Angelo Spinazzola of North River Kayak suggests the Bitehouse, a 12-seat restaurant located in a converted farmhouse that serves seasonal dishes such as scallops with caramelized cauliflower and grilled zucchini with local cheese ($40).
Average hotel rate: $89 vs. $192 on Cape Cod

Aruba

INSTEAD OF: Cayman Islands
WHY HERE? While Aruba has long been on Caribbean travelers’ radars, its 66% hotel occupancy rate (in summer) is much lower than the rates for St. Lucia (84%) and the Caymans (76%). The island is also undergoing an impressive $1 billion investment in new hotels, public works, and an energy plan to be fossil fuel–free by 2020. Aruba is increasingly accessible too, with Houston recently becoming the 12th North American city to introduce a direct flight to the island.
Average summer hotel cost: $197 vs. $257 in the Caymans

Aruba: What to See & What to Do

Boardwalk – Small Hotel, Aruba

STAY: Aruba’s range of accommodations means you don’t need to break the bank to stay in a lovely place, though an ocean view might cost you. You could opt for the Tamarijn Aruba (all-inclusive from $450 for two; three- night minimum) on Divi Beach, a waterfront property that also has a spa and a golf course. Further inland, at the charming Boardwalk Aruba, located in a coconut grove, casita rates start at $195 a night, says Susan Campbell, a senior writer for Aruba Nights. Guests also have free access to Moomba club on Palm Beach, as well as free lounge chairs and snorkeling equipment.
DO: In capital city Oranjestad, you can fuel up on empanadas stuffed with Gouda and ham at Mi Boca Dushi (lunch, $5) before renting bikes from Aruba Active Vacations ($25 per day). Cycle along the waterfront’s new 10-mile boardwalk or, if you’re looking for an empty stretch of sand, pedal to windswept Arashi Beach, close to the California Lighthouse.On the island’s south side, you can pair sunset views with the catch of the day at Zee Rover’s ($20), a fisherman’s hangout turned restaurant, suggests Matt Boland, the executive chef of Aruba’s Divi Resorts. Specialties include red snapper and wahoo served with plantains, pan bati (a cornmeal pancake), and hot sauce made with papaya and peppers.

 

12 Once-in-a-Lifetime Camping Sites

A dozen spectacular sites perfect for outdoor exploration. Thanks to Travel & Leisure for the inspiration and Getty Images for the stunning photos – Ned

Lake District

Hot, humid summer days are finally behind us, and crisp, mild autumn weather has breezed in to take its place. There’s no better time than now to dig out your tent, lace-up your hiking boots, and get a little wild.

Whether you’re a fearless adventurer seeking a scenic climb or a novice outdoorsman eager to convene with nature, these 12 camping destinations—from the sanctified shores of Japan to the obsidian paths winding across Hawaii and Iceland—will change your life.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Camping, Bowman Lake, Glacier NP, MT

More than 700 miles of trails wind through Montana’s crystalline lakes, jagged mountain peaks, and ancient glaciers. Go now, before they vanish altogether.  Novice campers should pitch a tent on the water’s edge in the RV-free Kinta Lake Campground, while backcountry campers should seek wild alpine meadows.

Canyonlands, Bryce, and Zion, Utah

camping

This grand slam region has no shortage of diverse and dazzling landscapes. Lesser-known Canyonlands is punctuated by enormous sandstone spires, and offers both campsites as well as camping-at-large options for travelers who prefer to rest in the privacy of their own…canyon.

Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

camping

For the most staggering views of the 750,000-year-old volcano Haleakala, camp at Holua or Paliku, and arrive at the crater’s edge just before sunrise. While winding through the black-sand switchbacks, look out for the ahinahina: an alien-like silversword that grows between 7,000 and 10,000 feet. Hike the moderate, four mile Pipiwai Trail through the rainforest (bamboo and banyans) to the base of the 400-foot-tall Waimoku Falls.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

camping

The Teton Range is one of America’s best-loved destinations for hiking and camping. Temperatures begin to drop in November—negative 63 °F is the record low—so plan your trip soon. Camp alongside the Snake River, which carves its way through Jackson Hole valley.

Laugavegur, Iceland

camping

Before snow descends upon the kaleidoscopic rhyolite mountains, book a hut or a tent in the camp city (wild camping is not permitted here), Landmannalaugur. Pros advise hiking from north to south, which takes you across lava fields, wildflower-speckled meadows, steaming geothermal vents, and finally, to the twin glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mydralsjökull.  Along the way, you’ll be dazzled by the mountains streaked with turquoise, orange, and cyan.

Miyajima, Japan

camping

Best known as the “Island of the Gods,” Miyajima is laced with hikes (you’ll want to summit sacred Mt. Misen), though nature-lovers will prefer the Omoto Route, which passes enormous rock formations, Fui and Iwaya Taishi, and is surrounded by century-old fir trees. Well-kept campsites and modest cabins are your best bet.

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

camping

Morocco’s most iconic range is a bucket-list camping destination for adventurous travelers. Pass through isolated Berber villages and trek from hot desert to snow-capped peaks. You can follow ancient mule paths, though guides in this area are highly recommended. Many will employ the use of a camel to help you carry your load: bed down in the grasslands beneath Jebel M’goun, a mountain far more quiet than Jebel Toubkal.

Valle de Cocora, Colombia

camping

Beneath the shadows of the Andes and the towering Quindío wax palms—the world’s tallest palms, which can reach 200-feet in height— found exclusively in this sliver of Colombia, is the Zona de Camping. This campsite (tents and sleeping bags can be provided upon request) is the perfect launch pad for horseback rides and rigorous hikes through the mountains. Take the loop trail to Acaime, a dazzling hummingbird reserve, or hire a jeep to bring you into the nearby mountain town, Salento.

Tierra del Fuego, Chile

camping

Patagonia is an explorer’s dream. Take a cross-border journey from Argentina to Chile via Radman (the only overland option) and set up camp along one of the glacial lakes Blanco or Ofhidro. Beavers are common in this area, as are condors. Linger in the mossy Fuegian forests.

Mahai Campsite, Royal Natal National Park, South Africa

camping

Tucked up against the Northern Drakensburg mountains, this campsite is an ideal base for hiking and mountain biking through the Royal Natal National Park. The famed Amphitheater-style mountain formation boasts enormous water cascades: ascend to the highest peak by tracing the route of the Mahai river. You’ll pass Sentinel Caves and scale a near-vertical chain ladder.

Main Range, Kosciuszko National Park, Australia

camping

Whether you fill your days with strenuous mountain hikes (pass over the country’s highest peaks and watch snowdrifts across the shale ridges) or fishing in the glacial lakes, make sure to spend an evening admiring the stars as they rise over Victoria.

Acadia National Park, Maine

camping

Get your lay of the land by scaling Cadillac Mountain, a 1,530 promontory over the Eastern Seaboard, and set up camp on Isle au Haut (thick woods and lean-to-shelters) or the month-old Schoodic Woods Campground on the mainland. Bikers will appreciate the virtually untouched network of trails.

 

The hotels of the future

From underwater rooms to ‘unbalanced’ designs: The hotels of the future that will make holidays more wondrous… and bizarre

  • Stunning new designs from Peru to Qatar show that hotel guests in the future are in for a real treat 
  • New concepts include an underwater resort, an 80 storey tower in the Alps and even a pop-up runway hotel 
  • Some of these fancy hotels by top architects are already under construction, with some even opening next year

Holidays are set to become a great deal more memorable if these incredible hotel designs become a reality.

They’re bigger, better – and weirder – with renderings showing that guests can expect to check into stunning accommodation in years to come including luxury underwater rooms, an ‘unbalanced hotel’ and even lodgings set in the Hollywood sign.

Here MailOnline Travel looks into its crystal ball at the amazing hotels of the future.


Poseidon Underwater Resort, Fiji

The Poseidon Resort comprises approximately 225 acres and is about a mile long. It is surrounded by a 5,000-acre lagoon and boasts pristine waters and abundant sea life

The Poseidon Resort comprises approximately 225 acres and is about a mile long. It is surrounded by a 5,000-acre lagoon and boasts pristine waters and abundant sea life

The fish bowl effect: A mock up of one of the suites which will be on offer at the Poseidon Underwater Resort, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows to the ocean

The fish bowl effect: A mock up of one of the suites which will be on offer at the Poseidon Underwater Resort, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows to the ocean

It has been 14 years in the making. And the world’s first underwater resort, which was due to open in 2008, has an estimated 150,000 potential guests on its waiting list.

But there are fears it may end up a wash out, as the Poseidon Underwater Resort in Fiji seems no closer to opening its doors.

Forty feet under the sea in an off-shore lagoon, the luxury resort is set to house 25 suites, as well as a restaurant, bar, gym, and even an underwater wedding chapel. Even the £9,000 per week price tag has not put off those desperate to stay.

Krystall hotel, Norway

The floating Krystall hotel will be based in the fjords near Tromso, in Norway, which sits within the Arctic Circle - the perfect spot for watching the Northern Lights

The floating Krystall hotel will be based in the fjords near Tromso, in Norway, which sits within the Arctic Circle – the perfect spot for watching the Northern Lights

The floating property has been branded a 'scarless development' as it will not permanently impact its surrounding environment

The floating property has been branded a ‘scarless development’ as it will not permanently impact its surrounding environment

Known as the Krystall hotel, this unusual five-star property is being developed by company Dutch Docklands, which specialises in floating structures.

It will be the first floating hotel in Europe.

Aptly, the new luxury hotel will be shaped like a snowflake and will be based in the fjords near the Norwegian town of Tromso, which sits within the Arctic Circle – one of the best places to spot the celestial phenomenon.

Work will begin next year and the 86-room hotel should be ready to open to visitors in 2017.

Shimao hotel, China

An artist's view of what the finished cave hotel will look like. The 5-star underground resort is being built inside a 100-foot deep, water-filled abandoned quarry in China at the base of the Tianmenshan Mountain in the Songjiang District

An artist’s view of what the finished cave hotel will look like. The 5-star underground resort is being built inside a 100-foot deep, water-filled abandoned quarry in China at the base of the Tianmenshan Mountain in the Songjiang District

The rest of the InterContinental Shimao hotel will be built into the mountainous landscape and guests will be able to do watersports on the lake and use the nearby cliffs for rock-climbing and bungee jumping

The rest of the InterContinental Shimao hotel will be built into the mountainous landscape and guests will be able to do watersports on the lake and use the nearby cliffs for rock-climbing and bungee jumping

Construction has begun on a luxury five-star hotel being built inside a 100-metre deep, water-filled abandoned quarry in China at the base of the Tianmenshan Mountain.

The £345million cave hotel in the Songjiang District has been designed by British-based firm Atkins and will have 380 rooms over 19 storeys – two of which will be underwater.

The rest of the InterContinental Shimao hotel will be built into the mountainous landscape and guests will be able to do watersports on the lake and use the nearby cliffs for rock-climbing and bungee jumping.

It is expected to take around three years to build and guests could be staying in the resort by 2016 – with rooms likely to cost around £200 a night.

‘Unbalance Hotel’, Peru

Framed: The hotel will be set into high cliffs above the Pacific Ocean in Peru's capital city, Lima 

Framed: The hotel will be set into high cliffs above the Pacific Ocean in Peru’s capital city, Lima

Uninterrupted: Rather than blocking the ocean view, the hotel serves as a frame for the stunning vista

Uninterrupted: Rather than blocking the ocean view, the hotel serves as a frame for the stunning vista

A hotel set to be built in Peru has been designed to look like a giant, off-centre picture frame.

The cliff-hugging structure, designed for a private client by Madrid-based architecture firm OOIIO, will serve as the perfect frame for the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the Andes on the other.

Provisionally named the Unbalance Hotel, the building is intended to become a landmark for Lima, where it will be built into cliffs outside the city centre.

The Unbalance Hotel will have 125 rooms, restaurants, conference rooms and exhibition spaces.

Water Discus hotel, Dubai

Plans: Designs for the Water Discus hotel, which is due to be built in Dubai

Plans: Designs for the Water Discus hotel, which is due to be built in Dubai

Luxury: The hotel has been designed by Polish company Deep Ocean Technology

Luxury: The hotel has been designed by Polish company Deep Ocean Technology

Dubai has never been understated.

But the United Arab Emirates city could soon have an eye-catching addition to its array of opulent dwellings, with the introduction of the world’s largest underwater hotel, the Water Discus Hotel.

It’s the brainchild of Polish company Deep Ocean Technology, assisted by Swiss firm BIG InvestConsult AG.

When it is built, guests will be able to stay in the hotel’s 21 rooms, designed to ‘integrate with the underwater world as closely as possible’.

Europe’s tallest skyscraper, Switzerland

Plans for the 80-storey luxury hotel tower have been created by award-winning Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne  Europe's tallest skyscraper which will stand at more than 70 metres above London's Shard is planned for a sleepy Swiss village

Europe’s tallest skyscraper (left), which will be more than 70 metres higher than London’s Shard (right), is planned for a sleepy Swiss village

Plans for the 80-storey luxury hotel tower have been created by award-winning Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne

Plans for the 80-storey luxury hotel tower have been created by award-winning Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne

Europe’s tallest skyscraper, which will stand more than 70 metres higher than the Shard, is going to be built in a sleepy Swiss village.

Plans for the 80-storey luxury hotel tower, designed by Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne, have been unveiled for the tiny hamlet of Vas, in the Swiss Alps.

Standing at 381 metres (1250ft) tall, the slim, glassy skyscraper aims to mirror the surrounding mountainous landscape.

The 53,000-square-metre building will include 107 guest rooms and suites, as well as spas, a ballroom and a library, restaurants, a cafe, bar, sky bar and a gallery.

It will also feature a swimming pool and fitness centre.

Jetway hotel

Architect Margot Krasojevic has released new renderings for a pop-up hotel to be placed beside a parked jet

Architect Margot Krasojevic has released new renderings for a pop-up hotel to be placed beside a parked jet

The Jetway Hotel is still in concept stage but could soon host the likes of the jet-loving Kardashians

The Jetway Hotel is still in concept stage but could soon host the likes of the jet-loving Kardashians

Now the rich and famous need not venture far from their private plane.

Architect Margot Krasojevic has released new renderings for a pop-up hotel to be placed beside a parked jet.

The Jetway hotel is still in concept stage but is bound to be popular with jet-loving celebrities such as the Kardashians should it ever come to fruition.

The Hotel Crescent, Azerbaijan

Moon on water: The Hotel Crescent is set to shine down on the city by 2016

Moon on water: The Hotel Crescent is set to shine down on the city by 2016

Gleaming future: Crescent City is just one of the projects that is transforming Baku and Azerbaijan

Gleaming future: Crescent City is just one of the projects that is transforming Baku and Azerbaijan

Flourishing Azerbaijan is building towers of flame and hotels from outer space in its efforts to steal Dubai’s crown as the architectural behemoth of the modern world.

The next stunning landmark to appear will be the Hotel Crescent, a 33-storey down-turned half-moon on the banks of the Caspian Sea.

It is to be completed by 2016, and a sister project called the Full Moon Hotel – resembling the Death Star from Star Wars – has been proposed.

Amphibious 1000, Qatar

Striking: Amphibious 100 is a futuristic semi-aquatic development which Qatar plans to build, costing over £300million

Striking: Amphibious 100 is a futuristic semi-aquatic development which Qatar plans to build, costing over £300million

The 'jellyfish': Pods for guests will have four floors each and an underwater observatory and lounge area

The ‘jellyfish’: Pods for guests will have four floors each and an underwater observatory and lounge area

The one kilometre-long resort is designed to look like a giant octopus with floating walkways representing the arms. Suites attached to the 'limbs' will boast underwater rooms and even an 'aquarium lounge' under the surface of the sea

The one kilometre-long resort is designed to look like a giant octopus with floating walkways representing the arms. Suites attached to the ‘limbs’ will boast underwater rooms and even an ‘aquarium lounge’ under the surface of the sea

This watery hotel development in Qatar, complete with underwater rooms and even an interactive sealife museum in the lobby, will cost around £310million to create.

The Amphibious 1000 project will be built in the middle of a marine reserve and will feature four giant hotels with underwater rooms, resembling super-yachts.

The one kilometre-long resort is designed to look like a giant octopus with floating walkways representing the arms. Suites attached to the ‘limbs’ will boast underwater rooms and even an ‘aquarium lounge’ under the surface of the sea.

The hotel development has been approved and work on the project is set to start soon.

The Heart hotel, New York

In an urban jungle like New York, utilising space effectively is of the utmost importance, and the Heart hotel certainly achieves this

In an urban jungle like New York, utilising space effectively is of the utmost importance, and the Heart hotel certainly achieves this

Designed by Arina Agieieva and Dmitry Zhuikov, the unique structure aims to mesh local residents and hotel visitors together by placing it at the core of the community

Designed by Arina Agieieva and Dmitry Zhuikov, the unique structure aims to mesh local residents and hotel visitors together by placing it at the core of the community

In an urban jungle like New York, utilising space effectively is of the utmost importance, and the Heart hotel certainly achieves this.

Designed by Arina Agieieva and Dmitry Zhuikov, the unique structure aims to mesh local residents and hotel visitors together by placing it at the core of the community.

Bedrooms are located in converted offices that make up the centre of the orb structure. Leisure facilities are available for everyone to use.

Funtasy Island, Singapore

Funtasy Island in Indonesia is poised to become the world's largest eco-resort

Funtasy Island in Indonesia is poised to become the world’s largest eco-resort

More than 500 homes have been sold at an average cost of £320,000 as work continues on the world’s largest eco-resort.

With a footprint of 330 hectares, Funtasy Island will occupy six islands in the Riau Archipelago in Indonesia when it opens in late 2015.

Located less than 10 miles from Singapore, the eco-resort will be accessible via a 20-minute luxury yacht or ferry ride.

The cost of building the eco-resort is around £154million ($240million). The average cost per square metre of property comes in at about £3,200 ($5,000).

MORPHotels

The MORPHotel has been designed by Italian Gianluca Santosuosso and was created around the idea of a vertebral spine

The MORPHotel has been designed by Italian Gianluca Santosuosso and was created around the idea of a vertebral spine

Plans are still in concept stage, but if they come into fruition, will incorporate a structure with the ability to adapt its shape according to weather conditions

Plans are still in concept stage, but if they come into fruition, will incorporate a structure with the ability to adapt its shape according to weather conditions

This unusually-shaped hotel will provide guests with a luxury floating system which can move around the world.

The MORPHotels, has been designed by Italian Gianluca Santosuosso and was created around the idea of a vertebral spine.

Plans are still in concept stage, but if they come into fruition, will incorporate a structure with the ability to adapt its shape according to weather conditions.

Dawang Mountain Resort, China

The first renderings of the Dawang Mountain Resort have just been unveiled, glimmering among the Chinese mountain scenery

The first renderings of the Dawang Mountain Resort have just been unveiled, glimmering among the Chinese mountain scenery

The sprawling 150,000-metre, five-star complex will house a water park, indoor ski slope and a 200ft waterfall

The sprawling 150,000-metre, five-star complex will house a water park, indoor ski slope and a 200ft waterfall

The city of Changsha in China is soon to house a magnificent five-star complex ahead of Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The latest renderings for the Dawang Mountain Resort, in China, display the beautiful exterior, which can be seen glimmering among the picturesque mountain scenery.

One of the structures – a 100m tower – will offer 270 high-class rooms, while the ‘Deep Pit Ice and Water World’ will offer numerous activities.

The 150,000-square-metre resort will also house a water park, indoor ski slope and an outdoor swimming pool, which will cantilever to create the top of the huge waterfall.

Hollywood hotel, LA

Sign of future times? How the famed Hollywood sign might look as hotel for the rich and famous

Sign of future times? How the famed Hollywood sign might look as hotel for the rich and famous

Concealed: The hotel is hidden behind the lettering in Dane Christian Bay-Jorgensen's design

Concealed: The hotel is hidden behind the lettering in Dane Christian Bay-Jorgensen’s design

Hugh Hefner put forward $900,000 to ensure the famous Hollywood sign dodged the bulldozers but if a Danish architect gets his way, they could end up being adapted into accommodation.

Christian Bay-Jorgensen says the sign could be transformed into a hotel, with each letter hosting guests and rooms with amazing views of Los Angeles.

The hotel letters would be twice the height of the current 45-ft tall sign, and include an observation deck.

Tour Triangle, Paris

Plans have been given the go-ahead for a 600-foot structure known as the Tour Triangle, Paris' first skyscraper in 40 years

Plans have been given the go-ahead for a 600-foot structure known as the Tour Triangle, Paris’ first skyscraper in 40 years

The towering, triangular glass structure will feature a 120-room hotel, and 753,470 square foot of office space

The towering, triangular glass structure will feature a 120-room hotel, and 753,470 square foot of office space

Paris is set to build its first skyscraper in 40 years, to the horror of many city residents.

The hotly contested building, 180 metres (600 feet) high and vying on the skyline with the Eiffel Tower, will house a 120-room hotel and 70,000 square metres of office space.

It has been given the go ahead by the Paris county council, after initial rejection in November 2014.

Where to REALLY get away from it all

The world’s most secluded hotels: from luxury yurts in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert to aluminium igloos in Greenland

 Thanks to TravelMail for a great feature! – Ned

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all.. and these hotels are the perfect places to do so.

Whether you’re in the market for an adventurous exploration in Patagonia or prefer a romantic retreat to a southern atoll in the Maldives, there’s an off-the-beaten path destination for everyone.

While it may require a bit of commitment to reach these isolated destinations, between the breath-taking views, serene atmospheres and – best of all – no WiFi, guests will be rewarded ten-fold.

Hotel Arctic Ilulissat, Greenland

In Greenland, the Hotel Arctic Ilulissat is situated on the cliff of an icefjord that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004

The world’s most northerly four-star hotel is, quite simply, not to be missed.

It’s situated right on the cliff of Ilulissat Icefjord, a fjord in western Greenland, which was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2004.

Hotel Arctic boasts 76 rooms and nine suites, as well as aluminum igloos, which are built even closer to the coast and are connected to the main building by a boardwalk.

A restaurant serving Greenlandic cuisine – think: musk-ox, reindeer and Arctic hare – is also located on site and is widely recognised as one of the best in the country.

The easiest way to reach the remote hotel is to fly from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq. From there, it’s another quick 45-minute flight north to Ilulissat. The entire journey should take approximately seven hours.

Jade Screen Hotel, Huangshan, China

There’s are only two ways to reach the Jade Screen Hotel in China’s Yellow Mountains. One is by climbing the 60,000 stone steps to the top.

If you can’t make it up on foot, there are porters who will assist in carrying you via wicker chairs and bamboo polls. Or, you could just take the cable car.

Either way, all guests will be rewarded with stunning views of the Huangshan mountain range as well as a four-star hotel experience, complete with sauna, massage centre and even a small shopping arcade.

Adrere Amellal, Siwa, Egypt

Adrere Amellal is as secluded as they come, so don't expect any electricity at this Egyptian hotel, which looks like a life-size sand castle

Adrere Amellal is as secluded as they come, so don’t expect any electricity at this Egyptian hotel, which looks like a life-size sand castle

Looking for an oasis in the middle of the Egyptian desert? Head to the picturesque Adrere Amellal.

It’s as secluded as they come, however, so don’t expect any electricity at this sandcastle-inspired property. Instead, all rooms are lit with beeswax candles and a starry sky.

Each of the 40 rooms are hand-built to blend naturally into the landscape. Also, all of the furniture and decor has been designed to pay tribute to nature and local artisans.

Every guest, meanwhile, receives a dedicated staff member to help look after them during their day – from booking meals to lighting candles. Sounds magical.

Ned’s tip: don’t forget if you’re in Egypt to check out the five star Le Royal Sharm El Sheikh Resort for loads of very different fun in the sun!

Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia, Africa

A true escape: The Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia is surrounded entirely by mountains and sand dunes

A true escape: The Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia is surrounded by mountains and sand dunes

Surrounded entirely by mountains and sand dunes in the Namib Desert, this lodge is a true escape from the outside world.

Perfect for honeymooners and intrepid travellers alike, the desert wilderness is nestled deep in a secluded, serene oasis where star-gazing and private middle-of-nowhere picnics are just the beginning.

Made of stone and glass, guest rooms melt into wraparound terraces and massive windows make you feel as if you’re one with nature.

And once you arrive, there’s no shortage of activities – from hot air ballooning to quad biking, there’s something for everyone in this gorgeous hideaway.

Explora Patagonia, Patagonia, Chile

Perfect for intrepid travellers, the luxury Explora Patagonia hotel in Chile offers guests over 50 action-packed adventures to choose from

This luxury hotel in the middle of Torres del Paine National Park rises out of the shores looking much like a white ship.

Overlooking the stunning Lake Pehoe, the property’s unique location literally puts travellers right in the heart of Patagonia, where they can take advantage of guided hikes, horseback rides and breath-taking views of glaciers, lakes and mountains.

For those looking to indulge in a relaxing treatment after their trek, the hotel’s spa provides massages, as well as a heated pool, sauna and open-air jacuzzis – boasting views of the Paine Massif mountain range, of course.

Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge, Tanzania

The Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge in Tanzania may be difficult to get to, but offers unbeatable views of the Big 5 - from the comfort of your sunlounger

The Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge in Tanzania may be difficult to get to, but offers unbeatable views of the Big 5 – from the comfort of your sunlounger

It’s no easy feat to reach the remote Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge, located in the heart of the famous National Park, though the trek sure is worth it.

First, you must fly into Nairobi, then onto Kilimanjaro and then to a private airstrip in the middle of the park, but you’ll soon be rewarded with incredible wildlife sightings and a lavish five-star hotel in the middle of the bush.

Each of the lodge’s 77 guest rooms are well-appointed – and many also feature a private terrace and plunge pool – but it’s the main building’s infinity pool that’s truly the piece de resistance.

It boasts a watering hole built just beyond it, offering unbeatable views of the elephants, zebra and wildebeest that stop by several times a day for a drink.

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Maldives

A five-star atoll, the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi resort is the ultimate luxury hideaway for getting away from it all

A five-star atoll, the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi resort is the ultimate luxury hideaway for getting away from it all

While there’s no shortage of privacy among any of the Maldives’ many isolated atolls, Jumeirah’s southernmost offering is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent.

Stretched across two islands, this luxury hideaway is perfect for getting away from it all.

From Male, a hopper plane will transport you to the domestic Kaadedhdhoo Airport, where guests will take a boat the last 40 minutes to the island.

But when you arrive, the staff’s warm welcome, the resort’s stunning beaches and sprawling secluded villas will more than make up for any extended travel time you’ve undertaken to get there.

Now, if only we could stay forever.

Tikchik Narrows Lodge, Alaska

Tikchik Narrows Lodge in Alaska caters to those looking to try their hand at freshwater fishing on Bristol Bay

Tikchik Narrows Lodge in Alaska caters to those looking to try their hand at freshwater fishing on Bristol Bay

The small fishing lodge is located at the tip of Wood-Tikchik State Park – more than 300 miles from the nearest road and accessible only by seaplane.

Thankfully, the lodge has employed four full-time pilots to fly guests from the closest city in southwestern Alaska to the property.

Aside from the main lodge and its sun room and sauna, there are also seven duplex guest cabins, complete with all mod cons.

Upon arrival, visitors can take part in freshwater fishing on Bristol Bay and enjoy local cuisine, such as smoked salmon and moose tenders, while taking in the pine-filled vistas.

A map showing just how far flung these luxury hotels are, with our round-up stretching across the world

Peter Island Resort and Spa, British Virgin Islands

For those with deep pockets and a serious desire for privacy, the 1,800-acre Peter Island can be rented out in its entirety

For those with deep pockets and a serious desire for privacy, the 1,800-acre Peter Island can be rented out in its entirety

For travellers with deep pockets seeking some serious privacy, Peter Island is just the place.

The resort encompasses the entire isle and the entire 1,800-acre property – including airspace – can be rented out to accommodate an entourage of just about any size.

There are 31 ocean view rooms, 20 beach front junior suites and three luxury villas to choose from, which can sleep up to 130 guests.

Several specialty restaurants and bars, as well as a spa and fully-equipped marina, round out the islet’s offerings.

And although it likely won’t be a concern for anyone considering such a luxurious buy out, it’s also worth noting that to reach the secluded spot, a ferry ride, private yacht or helicopter flight from St. Thomas or Tortola will be required.

Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia

Situated in the middle of the Gobi Desert, Mongolia’s Three Camel Lodge is great for those looking to get up close and personal with local wildlife

In the heart of the Gobi Desert, the lodge isn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime holiday destination – it doubles as a base for scientific research and wildlife monitoring.

Each yurt – or ger – is heated by a wood stove, decorated with hand-painted beds and furnishings and designed to blend into the natural landscape.

There is also an on-site restaurant and bar, as well as a massage ger to help you relax after a long day of exploring via the custom tours that can be planned and booked with the help of the lodge.

To get there, you’ll need to fly from Ulaanbaater, the capital, to Dalanzadgad, which is located on the edge of the desert. From there another hour and a half drive – off the beaten path, we might add – will lead you there.

One thing’s for sure, however: this spot is definitely for the more adventurous travellers among us.

A Picked Pocket: A Piqued Perspective

This is an interesting story from a fellow trekker who was pickpocketed in broad daylight in Bolivia.  Take care when travelling: make sure your passport, credit cards and money are in a body pouch or tight-fitting money belt and don’t leave your phone or other valuables in an outer, unzipped inner or open back pocket where they can be easily lifted.
                                                                                              Ned


I went to Bolivia to pursue my interest in journalism not knowing what to expect. As my last connecting flight from La Paz to Cochabamba soared over expanses of towering mountains, the reality of my imminent arrival in a foreign land where I knew not a soul dawned on me. I wondered about connecting with new people, about communicating in a language that is not my own, about adjusting to a new city and job, and about being so far removed from everyone and everything that had been familiar to me for the preceding eighteen years.

A mere four days after touching down on Bolivian soil, I was force-fed my first real lesson in what taking risks can entail. A fellow volunteer I had met the day before and I met up on a Sunday afternoon to visit La Cancha, Cochabamba’s main marketplace. Guidebooks warn about the crowded, chaotic labyrinth of a market, but we were eager to embrace a taste of the local culture in our new home.

As we approached the frenetic heart of the market, we maneuvered over men in bowler hats and women cradling babies in colorful woven slings to hop out of a taxi trufi filled to the bursting. We lost no time in setting about to explore the twisting streets teeming with color and energy. Fruits and vegetables laid strewn across blankets lining the cobblestone paths, and rickety stalls hosted piles of fabrics and handicrafts. Vociferous vendors touted their goods and haggled with customers. Children darted amongst the throngs of shoppers while the elderly observed the commotion from whatever available niches remained.

I pulled out my safely stashed phone to photograph the whirlwind of vibrancy while my new friend examined some merchandise at a nearby stall. We were the only tourists in the market as far as we could see. Years of high school Spanish classes and hours spent poring over travel books in my preparatory efforts to blend in with the locals proved insufficient. I stuck out like a great white American sore thumb.

Conscious as I felt of my conspicuous foreignness, I evidently had not been quite as aware of my surroundings as I believed.

I feel a forceful tugging at my hand and before I have time to register the shock of being robbed, the pickpocket hastily disappears into the crowds and I am dashing right after him. I can hear myself shouting, alternating in Spanish and English, pleading for someone to stop him. The voice sounds distant and removed from my body. He tears through narrow, snaking alleys, attempting to lose me in the labyrinth. Athleticism is not included amongst my fortes, but I run faster than I knew my legs could carry me, willing my eyes to maintain sight of the thief’s red shirt flashing like a bullfighter’s flag ahead of me.

Three local market-goers pick up the chase, to my immense gratitude. At every turn, at every point where the route split off into a series of tortuous new passageways, the vendors stationed at stalls lining the way point my fellow pursuers and me in the direction of the pickpocket.

Just when I begin to think hope is lost, we turn a corner and nearly barrel into the crimson-shirted thief, tightly restrained in the arms of two fortuitously located gentlemen. At this point in the story, I sometimes speculate about the many things I could have said to the pickpocket in that brief instant I found myself face-to-face with him. But my capacity for coherent statements – much less grand, indignant ones – was all but extinguished along with my stamina. So I retrieve my phone from his clutch with just enough breath left to express thanks to those who had helped me.

Celebration of this triumphant retrieval was short-lived. My day’s adventure was far from over.

I turn away from the scene and realize, with a dread that sinks like an anchor into the pit of my stomach, that I am utterly lost in a bewildering maze of crops and crafts.

My wandering begins. One vendor, an aging woman clad in a traditional shawl and pleated skirt with crinkles etched into the corners of her eyes, beckons me over to her stall. She bids me to sit down. “Cálmate, cálmate,” she says, as she insists that I rest and drink a cup of Coca-Cola from a bottle she procures out of thin air. Quite soon, a small gaggle of locals gathers around. They ask how I’m doing, where I’m from, where I’m going.

I converse for a while and, after thanking them for their much-appreciated kindness and generosity, I set out bereft of the foggiest notion of what direction I’d come from or how to find my way back.

I tell myself that this fruit stand or that crafts display look like familiar sights I might have bolted past while making a shrieking, sprinting spectacle of myself shortly before. Truthfully, I am blindly choosing alleys and hoping I’ll somehow end up on a main street.

Glancing around, I locate the tallest building in my near vicinity – a crumbling cream-colored structure topped with a billboard advertising sneakers. On my Bolivian pay-as-you-go mobile, I blurt out this description to my friend, and she exclaims that she sees it. The arrangement to meet there occurs just in the nick of time, for my phone buzzes directly after to inform me that I have eleven Boliviano cents of credit remaining (about two U.S. pennies) – insufficient fare for a text or more than three seconds of phone conversation. Though I had met this girl just one day before, I don’t believe I’ve ever been so relieved to see a familiar face.

“TAMAR. Never pull sh*t like that again!!!” Came the inevitable response from a close friend back home to whom I later recounted the incident. In my best attempt to quell her concern, I promised that I was being careful and staying safe.

What I didn’t add was an honest concession that, well, I’ll probably pull sh*t like this again. Life is too short not to chase after what you want (or want back) – even hard on the heels of a fleet-footed filcher.

That day I crossed paths with the negative intent of one individual and the bottomless kindness of a whole slew of strangers – attaining a better understanding, in the process, of humankind’s capacity for both. And perhaps that this was my most frightening experience stands as testament to how sheltered my existence has been thus far more than anything else. But each new experience contributes to growth, and the surest way to mature is to surmount self-doubt, to take the risks that demolish the cozy but constricting walls of comfort zones.

Heading into my Bolivian adventure, watching the mountains sprawling endlessly below me, I feared the unknown. But with each new encounter, each new discovery that chips away at my great white American ignorance, I have come to embrace it.

https://i2.wp.com/corporatetravelsafety.com/safety-tips/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/picks-0034.jpg

Ned’s Tip:  Pickpockets are getting better and better.  Read this brilliant guide to avoid getting caught!

Top 10 Extreme Hotels in the World

If your idea of an unforgettable vacation includes igloos, yak hair tents or underground cave dwellings, you may want to consider reserving a room at one of these extreme hotels from around the world, as voted by GAYOT‘s worldwide team of discerning professionals. Located in one-of-a-kind destinations from the Arctic Circle to a remote Patagonian rainforest, these adventurous accommodations offer unbelievable perks – stunning Northern Lights views, sea kayaking and thermal baths, to name a few. However, while some of these lodgings may take you to the edges of the Earth, all offer comfortable living quarters and top-flight amenities that make guests feel right at home.

A view of the Northern Lights from Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland, one of GAYOT's Top 10 Extreme Hotels in the World


A dining/kitchen area at Jules' Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida

A dining/kitchen area at Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida

USA

Key Largo, Florida
Jules’ Undersea Lodge

There’s no need to head 10,000 leagues beneath the sea for an underwater adventure. Instead, you can scuba dive just 21 feet below the surface through a mangrove habitat in Florida and drift to your heart’s content. Named in honor of the fantastical world created by author Jules Verne, Jules’ Undersea Lodge began life as an authentic research habitat, and today, it serves as a two-bedroom hotel. Guests with dive certificates are invited to enjoy unlimited diving. As for novices, a Discover Scuba certification course is required in order to reach the hotel. This program also allows newbies to enjoy dive excursions in the lagoon with an instructor. Although the lodge is by no means a luxury retreat, it does offer a thoughtful selection of creature comforts, including packages featuring gourmet dinner prepared by a “mer-chef.”

Go under the sea by booking a room at the Jules’ Undersea Lodge official website

The bedroom at Kokopelli's Cave in Farmington, New Mexico

The bedroom at Kokopelli’s Cave in Farmington, New Mexico

USA

Farmington, New Mexico
Kokopelli’s Cave

Being at one with the Earth takes on new meaning at Kokopelli’s Cave. Originally intended as a geological research office, this manmade one-bedroom B&B sits 70 feet below the surface of a mesa and is accessed through an entrance carved into a cliff face. Complete with a working kiva fireplace, this rustic retreat is reminiscent of the nearby Anasazi cliff dwellings … with the exception of electricity, comfy Southwest furnishings and a rock-walled bathroom with a hot tub and waterfall shower. Along with a full kitchen, a patio barbecue is on hand for outdoor grilling. Of note is the breathtaking sunset view spanning across La Plata River Valley and the four states region of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

Book your subterranean escape at the Kokopelli’s Cave official website

Glass igloos dot the property of Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland, Finland

Glass igloos dot the property of Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland, Finland

FINLAND

Lapland
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Next to Urho Kekkonen National Park in Lapland, 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, this resort features a variety of lodgings, including gorgeous glass igloos. Built of thermal glass and designed to stay frost-free, these unique guest rooms offer the opportunity to watch the Northern Lights from the toasty comfort of your own bed. You can also stay in classic snow igloos, log cabins or log cabin/glass igloo hybrids. The resort is home to the largest smoke sauna in the world, and dining venues include a picturesque log restaurant with a menu that showcases Lappish specialties. To round out your unforgettable experience, you can embark on a gold panning excursion or try the reindeer-drawn sled safari.

Grab your parka and plan your stay at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort official website

A guest room at Norden Camp in Tibet

A guest room at Norden Camp in Tibet

TIBET

Labrang
Norden Camp

Located outside the monastic village of Labrang at an altitude of 10,000 feet, Norden Camp introduces travelers to the nomadic way of life. This unique outpost was founded in a destination where itinerant herders graze their animals in the winter and fields are filled with flowers throughout the summer. Facilities are simple, with a dining area, fire pit and sauna, and accommodations include four traditional yak hair tents along with eight log cabins. Both types are portable; all have wooden floors and are furnished with local antiques and wood furnaces. The camp practices ecological and cultural responsibility, and activities vary from stargazing and hiking to visiting the Labrang Monastery and shopping at the local Norlha textile workshop.

The exterior of a log cabin at Norden Camp in Tibet

The exterior of a log cabin at Norden Camp in Tibet

Book your Tibetan escape at the Norden Camp official website

The restored 19th-century bullfighting ring at Quinta Real Zacatecas in Mexico

The restored 19th-century bullfighting ring at Quinta Real Zacatecas in Mexico

MEXICO

Zacatecas
Quinta Real Zacatecas

From breweries to jails, we’ve seen our fair share of neglected properties repurposed into hotels. But Quinta Real Zacatecas is among our favorites. Incorporated into the restored 19th-century San Pedro bullfighting ring, this singular place saw its last match in 1975. Among the 49 colonial-style suites, the most appealing feature views of the cobblestone-paved bullring. The tri-level house restaurant, La Plaza, also overlooks the ring, while Botarel bar is in the old brick-walled bull pen, offering live music and wines from Mexico and around the world. Adding to the appeal of the experience is the surrounding town of Zacatecas. In this UNESCO World Heritage Site, guests can explore colonial-era architecture, as well as take a cable car to the top of Cerro de la Bufa. ¡Olé!

To stay in a former bullfighting ring, plan your holiday at the Quinta Real Zacatecas official website

A guest room at La Montaña Mágica Lodge in Chile

A guest room at La Montaña Mágica Lodge in Chile

CHILE

Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve
La Montaña Mágica Lodge

In Chile’s remote Patagonian rainforest, Huilo Huilo — a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — practices sustainable conservation through community development programs and tourism. Among the accommodations for adventurous travelers are a lodge shaped like a mushroom, rustic cabins, a tree house “village” and La Montaña Mágica Lodge. This volcano-shaped hotel features water cascading down its sides rather than lava. Visitors can choose standard rooms or suites (on the ground level), all built by local craftsmen, with walls, floors and ceilings made of native wood. Naturally heated bathtubs are crafted from ancient tree trunks, and rates include a welcome drink and buffet breakfast. Along with luxuries like a spa and artisanal brewery, the vast property offers a wealth of activities, from trekking to mountain biking to the thermal baths of Pirihueico Lake.

Discover your remote lodge vacation at the La Montaña Mágica Lodge official website

Accommodations at Attrap'Rêves Allauch in France

Accommodations at Attrap’Rêves Allauch in France

FRANCE

Allauch
Attrap’Rêves Allauch

For those who dream of starring in their own space odyssey, this family-owned enterprise provides an ideal setting. Campy meets camping in bubble accommodations with themes ranging from Zen to 1,001 Nights. But these bubbles offer more than just a unique experience. Made from recycled materials, they are eco-friendly, and are deflated at the end of the season, ensuring minimal impact on the surrounding pine forest. Although the bubbles are sheer, privacy is ensured, from individual bathrooms to secluded locales within the property. Packages heighten the experience, with extras such as organic wine, gourmet dinner, massages and a telescope and star chart for the ultimate in bedtime stargazing. Though this Provençal property feels isolated, you can easily visit the pottery makers of Aubagne or the nearby town of Allauch overlooking Marseilles.

A bubble accommodation at Attrap'Rêves Allauch in France

A bubble accommodation at Attrap’Rêves Allauch in France

Book your extreme accommodations at the Attrap’Rêves Allauch official website

A view of Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

A view of Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA

Weligama Bay
Taprobane Island

Built in the 1920s by a self-appointed count and later owned by the expatriate writer Paul Bowles (who penned “The Spider’s House” here), this two-and-a-half-acre private island boasts just one sumptuous, five-bedroom villa. Although guests can wade to their exclusive hideaway from the shores of Sri Lanka, it’s more fun to ride in on an elephant. The concept behind the villa’s design was to avoid closed spaces, which means that there are views of the sea from almost every point in the house, including the gorgeous infinity pool and the individual terraces attached to the four double bedrooms. Adding to the sense of luxury is the island’s attentive staff, which includes security guards and a dedicated chef who makes delicious Sri Lankan curries.

A guest room at Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

A guest room at Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

Plan a private island getaway at the Taprobane Island official website

The view at Whitepod in Switzerland

The view at Whitepod in Switzerland

SWITZERLAND

Whitepod

For the ultimate outdoor retreat, Whitepod delivers. Situated in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 1,400 meters, the camp consists of 15 pods. With the look of giant boulders, these dome-shaped tents are pitched on raised wooden platforms surrounding a refurbished alpine chalet. Each mountain-chic lodging is heated by a wood-burning stove and has its own private front terrace overlooking the valley. The chalet features a Swedish sauna, massage area and communal space, where guests gather for breakfast and evening drinks around the fireplace. Along with majestic views of the snow-covered mountains, the camp offers ski lessons, guided snowshoe tours and dog sledding. At the camp’s starting point (a 20-minute walk from the pods), Chalet Les Cerniers is home to a full restaurant serving regional fare.

Check out the unique accommodations at the Whitepod official website

A guest room at Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

A guest room at Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

GALAPAGOS

Santa Cruz Island
Pikaia Lodge

Eco-adventure meets urbane luxury at this architecturally stunning resort. The main building sits atop two extinct volcano craters with guest rooms built along the slopes. Some suites come with private plunge pools, and all accommodations have shower areas with sweeping Pacific Ocean views. Equally dramatic vistas can also be enjoyed from Evolution Restaurant, DNA Bar and Homo Sapiens Explorers Lounge with a library dedicated to science and the Galapagos. The infinity pool and Sumaq Spa embrace guests with a sense of tranquility, and two yachts are available for day trips. The entirety of the Galapagos and the surrounding marine reserve are a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, and several excursions include snorkeling, mountain biking and sea kayaking — all with an emphasis on sustainable tourism.

A view of Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

A view of Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Begin your Galapagos exploration at the Pikaia Lodge official website


Ned’s tip: for more down-to-earth but no less exclusive accommodation, check out Le Royal Hotels & Resorts in several locations around the world.

Can YOU guess where it is?

Another photography article but WHAT an incredible one. Infinite thanks to Benjamin Grant (via the Daily Mail Online) for sharing these stunning images with the rest of humanity!

Ned


Mesmerising Instagram pictures taken from space show iconic worldwide landmarks as they’ve never been seen before

  • A photography series, called Daily Overview, has been posting satellite images of Earth’s most iconic landscapes 
  • Inspired by the ‘overview effect,’ which is the sensation that astronauts experience viewing Earth from space
  • Project creator Benjamin Grant begins with a ‘thought experiment’ to find each eye-catching aerial image
  • New additions include the blooming tulip fields of Lisse, Netherlands and the medina quarter in Marrakech 

This incredible photography series is inspired by what is known as the ‘overview effect’: the sensation that astronauts experience when the view the Earth from space.

New York-based project creator Benjamin Grant starts with what he calls ‘a thought experiment’ and then works to find an eye-catching satellite image on the resulting theme.

Thanks to an official partnership with satellite imaging company Digital Globe, Benjamin is able to zero in on a location to present and post a new photo every single day on his Daily Overview website.

The Spiral Jetty, which is is a counterclockwise coil jutting out from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, makes for a stunning image

The Spiral Jetty, which is is a counterclockwise coil jutting out from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, makes for a stunning image

The blooming tulip fields in Lisse, Netherlands, offer a stunning sky-high shot - in particular, during the peak bloom season in April

The blooming tulip fields in Lisse, Netherlands, offer a stunning sky-high shot – in particular, during the peak bloom season in April

The medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco is characterised by its winding, maze-like streets, though is hard to identify from the air

The medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco is characterised by its winding, maze-like streets, though is hard to identify from the air

The stunning results include aerial views of the 7.8 mile long, circular Nardo Ring test track and the Mad Max-esque Burning Man festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Other highlights include the dense urban sprawls of the medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco, a plane boneyard in Victorville, California and the otherworldly Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain

Benjamin explains: ‘Nearly all of the Overviews focus on the places where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape of the planet. Each one starts with a thought experiment.

‘I consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.

‘A number of themes have now developed for example transportation, agriculture, energy, so I often use those buckets to help generate new ideas as I search for new places to capture.

‘Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect.  This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole.’

The impressive image of radiating streets is taken at Plaza Del Ejecutivo in the Venustiano Carranza district of Mexico City

The impressive image of radiating streets is taken at Plaza Del Ejecutivo in the Venustiano Carranza district of Mexico City

Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, resembles the design of an aeroplane when photographed from above

Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, resembles the design of an aeroplane when photographed from above

The otherworldly Mount Whaleback Ire Ore Mine, located in Western Australia, boasts a kaleidoscope of colours from the air

The otherworldly Mount Whaleback Ire Ore Mine, located in Western Australia, boasts a kaleidoscope of colours from the air

The roads crossing along the Stelvio Pass, a road in Northern Italy, are the highest paved routes in the Eastern Alps

The roads crossing along the Stelvio Pass, a road in Northern Italy, are the highest paved routes in the Eastern Alps

At the Huelva Orchard in Spain, fruit trees create a swirl-like pattern on the hills in the ideal temperate climate

At the Huelva Orchard in Spain, fruit trees create a swirl-like pattern on the hills in the ideal temperate climate

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park gets is vivid colour from pigmented bacteria that grow along its edges

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park gets is vivid colour from pigmented bacteria that grow along its edges

The town of Bourtange, Netherlands - shaped like a star - makes for an incredible satellite image on the Daily Overview

The town of Bourtange, Netherlands – shaped like a star – makes for an incredible satellite image on the Daily Overview

The Gamasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain uses 2,650 mirrors to focus the sun's thermal energy - and looks like an optical illusion from the air

The Gamasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain uses 2,650 mirrors to focus the sun’s thermal energy – and looks like an optical illusion from the air

Aluminum toxic waste gathers in the collection pond of a plant in Darrow, Louisiana, though the red mud generated makes for a stunning shot

Aluminum toxic waste gathers in the collection pond of a plant in Darrow, Louisiana, though the red mud generated makes for a stunning shot

The social media account also includes an image of the Great Pyramids of Giza, located on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt

The social media account also includes an image of the Great Pyramids of Giza, located on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt

Niagara Falls, which straddle the border between Ontario and the United States, make for a majestic satellite shot

Niagara Falls, which straddle the border between Ontario and the United States, make for a majestic satellite shot

During the Burning Man festival, which is held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA, participants can be seen as a semi-circle

During the Burning Man festival, which is held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA, participants can be seen as a semi-circle

The Nardo Ring is a high-speed circular test track in Italy and photographs like a contained circle from the sky

The Nardo Ring is a high-speed circular test track in Italy and photographs like a contained circle from the sky

‘They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire,’ Benjamin adds.

‘From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet.

‘We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

‘As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape.

Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.

‘The mesmerising flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organisation on a massive scale, or the vibrant colours that we capture will hopefully turn your head.

‘However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet.’

And, so far, the response to the images has been overwhelming.

Today, the account has amassed over 40,000 followers and Benjamin even sells some of his more popular images as large prints on his website.

An olive tree plantation covers the hills of Curdoba, Spain, and from the air looks more like dots among a field

An olive tree plantation covers the hills of Curdoba, Spain, and from the air looks more like dots among a field. 90 per cent of all harvested olives will be turned into oil

The Example DIstrict in Barcelona, Spain, is characterised by its strict grid pattern and apartments with communal courtyards

The Example DIstrict in Barcelona, Spain, is characterised by its strict grid pattern and apartments with communal courtyards

Venice, Italy is fascinating to observe from above, with its canals, bridges and 78 giant steel gates across the three inlets

Venice, Italy is fascinating to observe from above, with its canals, bridges and 78 giant steel gates across the three inlets

The canal system of Amsterdam makes for an intriguing subject - all a result of conscious urban planning 

The canal system of Amsterdam makes for an intriguing subject – all a result of conscious urban planning

Benjamin Grant's Instagram account, Daily Overview, posts images - taken from space - depicting man's impact on civilisation. This picture shows Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

Benjamin Grant’s Instagram account, Daily Overview, posts images – taken from space – depicting man’s impact on civilisation. This picture shows Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

The Moab Potash Ponds in Utah is a stunning example of vibrant colour contrast between the bright blue water and salt 

The Moab Potash Ponds in Utah is a stunning example of vibrant colour contrast between the bright blue water and salt

In Norfolk, Virginia, Lamberts Point Pier 6 is the largest coal-landing station in the Northern Hemisphere

In Norfolk, Virginia, Lamberts Point Pier 6 is the largest coal-landing station in the Northern Hemisphere

Central Park in New York City spans 843 acres, which accounts for six per cent of the island of Manhattan

Central Park in New York City spans 843 acres, which accounts for six per cent of the island of Manhattan

The Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, has a large boneyard of over 150 retired planes

The Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, has a large boneyard of over 150 retired planes

The neighbourhoods of Sntosh Park and Uttam Nagar in India are some of the most built-up and densely populated

The neighbourhoods of Sntosh Park and Uttam Nagar in India are some of the most built-up and densely populated

Cargo ships and tankers are pictured waiting outside the entry to the Port of Singapore - the world's second-busiest port 

Cargo ships and tankers are pictured waiting outside the entry to the Port of Singapore – the world’s second-busiest port

A whirlpool interchange, which was first built in 2006, connects three major roads by the Miracle Garden in Dubai, UAE

A whirlpool interchange, which was first built in 2006, connects three major roads by the Miracle Garden in Dubai, UAE

Located at the centre of 12 radiating avenues in Paris, France, construction of the Arc de Triomphe took nearly 30 years to complete

Located at the centre of 12 radiating avenues in Paris, France, construction of the Arc de Triomphe took nearly 30 years to complete


Check out Benjamin’s website for the full beauty of the Overview Effect.  This is what he says about it:-

Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect. This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole. They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire. 

From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet. We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape. Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea. 

The mesmerizing flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organization on a massive scale, or the vibrant colors that we capture will hopefully turn your head. However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet.

Under-The-Radar Vacation Destinations

Some more amazing places to visit if you’ve already done the obvious ones.

Original article from HuffPost Travel & Thrillist

ANGUILLA

Photo Credit: Alexshalamov | Dreamstime.com

Where: Caribbean

Ringed by blindingly white sand and lustrous aquamarine waters, this mostly flat desert island offers a decidedly low-key escape, especially compared to bustling St. Martin nearby. There are no nonstop flights from the U.S. to Anguilla, and no port for cruise ships to pull into, which helps to maintain the island’s relaxed vibe. Locals value privacy and peace—they won’t even permit Jet Skis on the island for fear of noise pollution.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Anguilla Travel Guide

NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND

Photo Credit: THPStock / Shutterstock

Where: Australia

Located less than 20 miles from Brisbane, “Straddie” (as locals call it) is a popular weekend destination for Brisbanites looking to escape the city. Activities here include swimming, fishing, surfing, and hiking to explore the island’s five beaches and dozens of inland lakes. You can spot koalas on the island, or head to Point Lookout, considered one of the best land-based whale-watching spots in the world.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Australia Travel Guide

HAINAN ISLAND

Photo Credit: LU JINRONG / Shutterstock

Where: China

Popular with Chinese and Russian tourists, but mostly unknown to other travelers, this tropical island off China’s southern coast is home to gorgeous beaches, a volcano park, monkeys, a Shaolin Buddhist temple, an ancient Hainanese village, and more. The island is now being promoted as “China’s Hawaii,” which may sound like a tourism ploy, but the scenery here is worthy of the comparison.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s China Travel Guide

HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK

Photo Credit: Saffiresblue | Dreamstime.com

Where: Ohio

Hiking, biking, archery, fishing, hunting, camping—you’ll find all this and more at this state park, spread across more than 2,300 acres. The park is most notable for its waterfalls and dramatic rock formations, including Old Man’s Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Ohio Travel Guide

KOH LIPE

Photo Credit: Blanscape / Shutterstock

Where: Thailand

Accessible only by boat, this island paradise in the Andaman Sea is surrounded by clear water and pristine reefs, where 25 percent of the world’s tropical fish species live and swim. Considered a calmer alternative to overrun Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe features a variety of beaches—some developed, some deserted—but you’ll find peace and quiet at Sunrise Beach. As part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, Koh Lipe is unlikely to see the kind of massive developments that have detracted from the appeal of other Thai islands.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Thailand Travel Guide

GATES OF THE ARCTIC NATIONAL PARK

Photo Credit: Joshanon1 | Dreamstime.com

Where: Alaska

Travelers who are proficient in outdoor survival skills should head to this vast, nearly untouched wilderness park, spread across 8.4 million acres in northern Alaska. The park has no established, roads, trails, or campsites, which means that trekking across this landscape is a challenging but one-of-a-kind adventure. Home to the Brooks Range mountains and six rivers, the park offers excellent fishing opportunities in addition to its superlative scenery.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Alaska Travel Guide

ŞANLIURFA

Photo Credit: Orhan Cam / Shutterstock

Where: Turkey

Commonly called Urfa, this historic city dates back at least 3,500 years, and Turkish legend has it that Abraham was born in a cave here. The cave and other important sites draw hundreds of thousands of Muslim visitors annually. Aside from its traditional architecture, Urfa’s main attractions are the Fish Pool, an old covered bazaar, the Throne of Nimrod fortress, and a small archaeological museum. A trip to nearby Göbekli Tepe is considered a must, as it is home to the world’s oldest temple, dating from more than 11,000 years ago.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Turkey Travel Guide

KOBARID

Photo Credit: dohtar / Shutterstock

Where: Slovenia

Located in the Soča Valley, this picturesque town is surrounded by majestic mountains and rolling green pastures. Aside from its natural beauty, Kobarid has historical importance, with archaeological sites dating to the Iron Age in addition to a museum commemorating the town’s role in World War I. For such a small place, Kobarid is home to a surprising number of fine restaurants, five of which comprise a group known as the Kobarid Gastronomic Circle.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Slovenia Travel Guide

VIRUNGA VOLCANOES

Photo Credit: PRILL / Shutterstock

Where: Rwanda

This very active eight-volcano chain straddles the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but for security reasons, your best bet is to visit the section located in Rwanda. Hikers who scale the volcanoes, up to heights of 15,000 feet, will be rewarded with incredible views and sightings of mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and other wildlife.

Read More: 12 Reasons to Go to Rwanda

SCHÖNAU AM KÖNIGSEE

Photo Credit: Fyletto | Dreamstime.com

Where: Germany

Popular for health retreats and winter sports, this town lies near the Austrian border and sits inside Berchtesgaden National Park, on scenic Lake Königsee. Mount Jenner offers skiing in winter, while Mount Watzmann is better suited to mountain climbers. Featuring small-town Bavarian charm, Schönau am Königsee is home to a number of cafes and traditional restaurants

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Germany Travel Guide

RANGIROA

Photo Credit: iPics / Shutterstock

Where: French Polynesia

You’ve heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora, but not this place, which happens to be the second-largest atoll in the world. Essentially a string of coral encircling a beautiful lagoon, Rangiroa offers world-class diving and one-of-a-kind natural beauty. Activities are centered on beaches and the water, though you can also explore villages and visit a working pearl farm.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s French Polynesia Travel Guide

PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK

Photo Credit: iPics / Shutterstock

Where: Croatia

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, this stunning national park features approximately 20 lakes in addition to breathtaking caves, forests, and waterfalls. There’s also an abundance of wildlife here, including bears, wolves, and 126 bird species. Spread over more than 70,000 acres, the park is notable for the unique geological processes that formed its cascading lakes and continue to alter the terrain to this day.

Where to Stay: there’s no lodging inside the park, but Hotel Degenya and Turist Grabovic are both popular with park visitors.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Croatia Travel Guide

LOMBOK

Photo Credit: Kim Briers / Shutterstock

Where: Indonesia

Want the splendor of Bali without all of the crowds? Then head to Lombok, where you’ll find beautiful beaches, enchanting waterfalls, a looming volcano, and relatively few tourists. The natural scenery and local way of life have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, and the indigenous culture is quite rich. Aside from relaxation, this island is ideal for surfing and snorkeling.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Indonesia Travel Guide

ULAN BATOR

Photo Credit: Jeppo75 | Dreamstime.com

Where: Mongolia

The Mongolian capital has a reputation for being a rather unattractive city, but don’t let that discourage you, as it makes a good base for exploring one of the world’s most beautiful and hospitable countries. (Don’t pass up the opportunity to hike in the mountains south of the city.) Primarily a business-traveler destination, you won’t see too many Western tourists here, meaning the museums won’t be overrun.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Mongolia Forum

EL DJEM

Photo Credit: Nicku / Shutterstock

Where: Tunisia

Originally built as the Thysdrus, this town in northern Africa features well-preserved architecture from the days of the Roman Empire. El Djem was once the second-most important city in the region, behind Carthage, and its most famous feature is a massive amphitheater, constructed in the third century, which could house up to 35,000 spectators. Though parts of the structure have crumbled, enough of it still stands to conjure its former glory. The town is also home to a museum that features a large selection of mosaics and a restored Roman villa.

Ned’s tip: for the best service in Tunisia, stay at Le Royal Hammamet, part of the luxury Le Royal Hotels & Resorts division of the General Mediterranean Holding group

Mate Is The South American Drink That Puts Our Coffee Game To Shame

Via HuffPost

The Brits might have a deeply-steeped tea tradition. The Italians’ espresso game is surely strong. Americans know where it’s at when it comes to iced coffee. But none of that compares to the strong tradition that South America has with its energy-boosting beverage of choice, mate.

Yerba mate

Mate is an infusion made by steeping the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant (a species of the holly family) in near-boiling water. It is traditionally drank from a calabasa gourd — though these days the drinking vessel can be made out of just about anything — with a silver metal straw called a bombilla. The straw is integral to the drinking process because it filters out the leaves. Drank straight, a sip of hot mate will taste a lot like a strong, slightly bitter tea and it has been enjoyed in the Southern Hemisphere for hundreds of years. This is what yerba mate looks like before it’s steeped.

Yerba Mate

Mate has a long history in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Bolivia. It is not uncommon to see people walking the streets with mate in hand in those countries — some even with a thermos of hot water in the other hand to refill the drink as it gets low. It’s custom to add water to yerba mate around 15-20 times, until it loses its flavor. Drinking mate is often times a group experience; it’s a symbol of hospitality and friendship. A host will commonly pass mate around in a circle so every one can have a few sips. But why is it so beloved? Our best guess: the energy the drink imparts.

Sunset mate

Mate gives the same amount of energy as a cup of coffee, without the jittery feeling that some people get from caffeine. The LA Times proposes that it’s because one cup of yerba mate contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, which is twice as much as black tea but significantly less than a cup of coffee. (Other schools of thought believe that mate does not contain caffeine, but another type of stimulating compound which is the reason for the cleaner buzz.) One thing everyone agrees on is that it’s loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which only adds to its energy boosting power. We think the fancy metal straw adds to the appeal too. Some people believe that mate is loaded with health benefits, but there are no studies as of yet that back up the claim.

Mate can be served sweetened with sugar or not. And these days, one can even find it sold in tea bags with all kinds of added flavors. Whichever way you try it, just be sure to drink it with friends.

 

 

17 Trips of a Lifetime: A Peek at Condé Nast Traveler Voyages

Written by   – June 01, 2015

The question we’re asked most is the simplest: Where should I go? Now, we have 17 answers – and a fast track to make them real.


Botswana: Bloom of the Southern Desert

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Botswana: Bloom of the Southern Desert

From the wildlife of the Central Kalahari reserve—including antelope and the black-maned lions that hunt them—to the salt pans of Makgadikgadi and the wetlands of the Okavango Delta, Botswana holds some of the most spectacular vistas on Earth. Not to be missed: a walk with Zu/’hoasi Bushmen trackers, and an afternoon among the meerkat.

Brazil: from Rio to Rainforest

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Brazil: from Rio to Rainforest

Rio is on every traveller’s wish list—even if they’ve already been. (Maybe especially if they’ve already been!) Cradled by those world-renowned beaches and mountains is one of the world’s great colonial centres. But the city’s staggering diversity is trumped by that of Brazil itself: cool cosmopolitanism on the coast gives way to the great Amazonian rainforest, where more species of flora and fauna convene than anywhere else on the planet—including nine kinds of howler monkey and the endangered Amazonian dolphin.

Croatia: the “Pearl” of Old Europe

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Croatia: the “Pearl” of Old Europe

There are few places that better capture the grand soul of maritime Old Europe than Croatia. Zagreb’s ancient fortified centre rivals Budapest and Vienna in its stony streets and baroque architectural flourishes; further south, Dubrovnik — currently playing King’s Landing in the HBO series Game of Thrones, and formerly the capital of the Maritime Republic of Ragusa, rival to Italy’s Venice and Amalfi — boasts the sternly lovely old town of Stari Grad, whose convents, palaces, and fountains were cut from the same lightly coloured stone. The latticed waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offer a delightful un-urban intermission.

Ecuador: the Otherworldly

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Ecuador: the Otherworldly

The colonial charm of Quito—not to mention its thriving high-end dining scene—is reason enough to put Ecuador on your list, but that’s just the beginning. There’s also the Avenue of Volcanoes between Quito and Cotopaxi; the Cloud Forest of Caja; the Incan Temple of the Sun among the ruins of Ingapirca; and the primeval jungle of the Mashpi Rainforest. This is a country where the mystical, the natural, and the man-made find equipoise.

Egyptian Grandeur

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Egyptian Grandeur

There’s no other way to put it: Egypt is the grand stage, quite possibly the grandest of them all. Civilization got its start here, and the evidence makes for an experience few other places on earth can match. For sheer scale, for ambition, for the story they tell of human achievement, the Great Pyramids of Giza are unparalleled; they’ve earned their spot at the top of the global bucket list. But there are smaller scale wonders as well: the Bent Pyramid, the Red Pyramid at Dashour; the Step Pyramid in Saqqara; the winged columns of Outer Hypostyle Hall. And then, of course, there are the vibrant streets and alleys of Cairo.

Ned’s tip: for fun in the sun and superb five-star luxury stay at Le Royal Sharm El Sheikh, part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts division of Air Nadhmi Auchi’s General Mediterranean Holdings group.

From Sacred to Shore in Indonesia

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From Sacred to Shore in Indonesia

Paradise in more ways than one, Indonesia is home not only to some of the world’s most iconic Buddhist temples—including those at Borobudur and Sewu—but also to stunning Hindu sites like Loro Jonggrang or the quirkier “Bat Cave” at Goa Lawah. It’s even more famous for its beaches, though, including postcard-perfect Jimbaran Bay. Less well known but just as enchanting are the vibrant streets of Yogyakarta, once the capital, which blends thriving old-city bazaars with the courtyards and palaces of former sultans.

Sensual India

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Sensual India

We’re relentless evangelists for the sundry and sumptuous pleasures of India (need proof? It’s hereand herehere). More than a country, it’s a bazaar for the spirit, fiercely extravagant one instant, modest the next. Delhi alone contains multitudes: the alleys of Chandni Chowk; the mosques of Nizamuddin Dargah and Jama Masjid; the Yogmaya temple; nearby, the Taj Mahal. Rajasthan is another world: the “Blue City” of Jodhpur, camels and chinkara in the Thar Desert. A feast for the senses from eye to tongue to fingertip.

Note: There are two Condé Nast Traveler Voyages to India, one individual trip and one group trip.

Gorillas of Rwanda

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Gorillas of Rwanda

The Virunga mountains, jutting like shards of dense emerald from Africa’s central plain, are one of the world’s great phenomena: volcano-born, ancient, now lush with an array of plants and wildlife as dazzling as any in Africa. Their most famous inhabitants are also their rarest: the mountain gorillas, critically endangered but also, in recent years, fiercely defended by conservationists. Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park offers one of a very few opportunities to encounter them in their native habitat. (It’s also home to their nearly-as-rare evolutionary cousins, the golden monkeys.)

South Africa Rising

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South Africa Rising

South Africa is having a moment—or maybe five. Cape Town has quietly become a must-visit city for travelers all over the globe, with an enviable food culture, markets and museums, the Kirstenbosch Gardens and a rapidly growing craft scene. The Cape Winelands have earned respect from the notoriously demanding global wine community. The coastline serves up an unrelenting parade of wonders, from brilliant sand beaches to windswept rocks to iconic lighthouses to—yes—penguins. The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the premier encounter zones for Africa’s “Big Five” (leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino). And Victoria Falls remains one of the wonders of the natural world, not least because of the majestic Zambezi River that feeds them.

The Classic and the New in Spain and Portugal

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The Classic and the New in Spain and Portugal

Madrid ranks high on the list of great-but-strangely-undersung cities, with its rejuvenated food scene, elegant plazas, up-to-the-minute boutique shopping, rooftop nightlife, and world-class museums. It’s a great starting point, too, for exploring the rest of Spain. And there’s so much of the rest of Spain to explore: the noble wine country of Rioja; the Camino de Santiago through Burgos and León; the distinctive tapas culture and even more distinctive architecture of Seville. While you’re in the Iberian neighborhood, a quick jaunt through Portugal—the riverside beauty of Porto, the Alfama of Lisbon—is, really, the only right thing to do.

Ned’s tip: stay in luxury at the Hotel Miguel Angel and get the best service in Madrid

Sri Lanka, Spice to Sea

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Sri Lanka, Spice to Sea

Sri Lanka’s size misleads; the island is packed with rich history and wide-ranging beauty. Verdant forests give way to the medieval ruins of Polonnaruwa, the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, resplendent palaces like Kandy where kings once played and prayed (and where the Buddha’s tooth, legend holds, once rested). Or the stark domes of Anuradhapura, built in the 4th century BC and lost to the jungle before its 19th-century restoration. There are the cinnamon and nutmeg plantations that flavor the world; and of course, above all, the unparalleled “Golden Valley of Tea” in which many of the most sought-after varieties are cultivated. And all of it surrounded by some of the most dramatic and picturesque beaches on earth.

Iconic Tanzania

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Iconic Tanzania

By one means and another, Tanzania has taken firm residence in the Western imagination of Africa. From the Kilimanjaro of Hemingway’s fascination to the tree-lounging lions and brilliant pink flamingos of Lake Manyara; from the great game-rich pan of the Ngorongoro Crater to the wide wild beauty of the Serengeti plain with its lions, rhinos, elephants and leopards—this is the Africa that’s been remade in books and films, dreams and legends. None of which, of course, can stand in for the place itself, which is all that and worlds more.

Ancient Grandeur, Ancient Charms in Burma (Myanmar)

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Ancient Grandeur, Ancient Charms in Burma (Myanmar)

Burma’s appeal swings from grand to minute. Take, for instance, the incomparable temples of Pagan, rising in prickly ochre splendor from the forests’ embrace; and then, for contrast, the understated old-world charm of U Bain Bridge. In between are the colonial houses of Maymyo; the historic pagodas of Mandalay; Rangoon’s reclining Buddha; and the floating villages of Inle Lake.

Untravelled Ethiopia

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Untravelled Ethiopia

Ethiopia remains under-appreciated—and largely untravelled‚by the West. Call that an opportunity. Whether it’s the 17th-century frescoes of Abraha Atsbeha; or Axum, home to the palace of the former Queen of Sheba (you can visit her swimming pool, though you can’t take a dip) and the Chapel of the Tablet—resting place, reputedly, of the Ark of the Covenant; or the ibex, klipspringers, and gelada monkeys of Chennek; the Blue Nile Falls in Tissisat; or Addis Ababa’s Mercato, quite possibly the largest open-air market in Africa, where you’ll find everything from spices to goats to textiles—Ethiopia is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations.

Japan and the Pursuit of Perfection

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Japan and the Pursuit of Perfection

Japan ranks highly on so many global “great” lists. Home to one of the world’s truly noble food cultures; some of the most distinctive natural beauty on earth; one of our most influential design traditions; world-class cultural centers in Tokyo and Kyoto; and even, believe it or not, some of the finest beaches in Asia—Japan belongs on any traveler’s life list. Also on not to be missed are the bullet trains; temples and shrines at Asakusa Kannon, Kinkakuji, Meiji, and Kasuga Taisha; and of course a visit to Kyoto’s renowned geisha district, Gion.

Mythical Morocco

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Mythical Morocco

Long ago, Morocco captured the world’s imagination—and never relinquished it. Little wonder: with the Roman ruins at Volubilis, the souks and mosques of Fez, and the palaces and markets of Marrakech, imagination has ample fuel. There’s nothing quite so provocative to the fancy as the mausoleum of King Mohammed V or the Oudaya Kasbah medina in Rabat, for instance; or Meknes, once the heart of the Moroccan sultanate; or in Fez, the Jewish quarter. On the must-list in Marrakech: the Saadian Tombs and the Koutoubia mosque.

Ned’s tip: for the best hotels in Morocco, stay in Matisse’s favourite the Grand Hotel Villa de France or the equally splendid El Minzah, both part of Grand Mediterranean Holding’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts

Patagonia: Ends of the Earth

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Patagonia: Ends of the Earth

As south as south gets in the Western hemisphere, blending Argentina with Chile, mountains with desert, Pacific with Atlantic, Patagonia is among the world’s most dramatic landscapes. Even its people were once thought to be giants. The southern spine of the Andes smashes brilliantly into glacial lake districts like Bariloche (Argentina) and Puerto Varas (Chile), where the Osorno volcano forms a mythical backdrop. Even these pale, though, by comparison to the jagged, primeval shards of Torres del Paine, or the Perito Moreno glacier, one of few in the world still advancing.

 

40 Ways The World Makes Awesome Hot Dogs

The Ultimate Hot Dog Style Guide

from Food Republic

It’s not just a sausage in a bun; it’s a beautiful blank canvas. It’s a hot dog, which is a foodstuff eaten worldwide. Here are 40 distinctive varieties from around the globe — from iconic NYC “dirty water dogs” to fully loaded South American street-cart dogs to Japanese octo-dogs. There is a tubesteak out there for every craving that ever was.

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Would You Spend The Night In One Of These Terrifying Capsules Above Peru’s Sacred Valley?

WOW!!

If you’re a thrill-seeker with a love of travel, you’re now invited to stay in Skylodge, a series of transparent pods that hang above the Sacred Valley of Peru.

The valley, located near Peru, features 24 x 8 meter capsules made from polycarbonate and aluminum. They’re operated by Natura Vive, a Peruvian tour company, and they overlook some of the most beautiful scenery and small villages.

The cost of staying in one is around $300 USD. You’ll also need to climb a 400 foot steel ladder embedded into the face of the cliff. You can also zip line or hike to them.

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11 Reasons Guam Is The Most Exotic Destination In America

Source: Huffpost Travel

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What happens if you mix Texas with Hawaii?

You’d probably get a remote island paradise that looks a lot like Guam: an island with a rich culture, a contentious and diverse colonial history and absolutely stunning vistas.

In many ways, Guam seems like a wonderfully unique contradiction. It’s a remote island and an international melting pot; it’s an American territory, and the gateway to Asia; it’s home to an intensely local culture, but it’s filled with outsiders. And to top it all off, it’s just beautiful.

Below, the 11 reasons Guam just might be America’s most interesting and exotic destination.

1. The diving:
The water is crystal clear and, unlike much of the world, Guam’s coral reefs are actually thriving. Piti Bomb Hole features such lushly perfect coral craters that it looks like they were sculpted by bombs. Between Apra Harbor, where WWI and WWII ships sunk on top of each other, to Gun Beach, where stingrays go for breakfast, divers and snorkelers are never, ever bored.

guam diving

Apra Harbor

2. Chamorro food:
With clear influences from Spanish and Mexican cuisine, Chamorro food features tortillas, tamales, atole and chilaquiles. Locals especially crave Finadene (a soy sauce-based condiment) and Chicken Kelaguen, which features lemon, chile peppers and coconut shavings.

chicken

3. History:
The U.S. territory enjoys the culture of the Chamorro people (the indigenous Pacific islanders), but with heavy Spanish, Japanese, and American influences. It was first colonized by Spain in the seventeenth century, was occupied by Japan for two years during World War II, and is home today to a relatively large U.S. military presence.

fort soledad

Fort Soledad

4. The culture:
Are you ready for this? Many equate the culture in Guam to that of Texas. Seriously. Between an obsession with high-school football and little league to the people themselves, apparently the Lone-Star state and the lone island have a lot in common. Guam locals have big hearts and even bigger parties (called village fiestas), and a frontier mentality means that communities are tight-knit and take care of one another.

chamorro

5.The hiking:
To get you drooling, just try Instagram searching the following: Pagat Caves, Cetti Bay, Sigua Falls, Ague Cove, Talofofo Falls and Marbo Cave. Yes, please!

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Talofofo Falls

6. The beaches:
A pretty beach is a pretty beach, right? Apparently not. Guam enjoys near perfect weather year round (temperatures range from the low 70s to mid 80s) and the water, according to one local, is warm and uniquely delightful, as if “Mother Nature herself drew you a warm bath.”

guam

7. Sunsets:
This is the kind of majesty you have to see for yourself.

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Agana Bay and Alupai Island at sunset.

But seriously, the sunsets are incredible:

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Tamuning beach

8. The music:
Reggae and ukelele lovers rejoice. With such a laid-back lifestyle, it’s easy to stumble upon great live music at the beach, the bars or the ubiquitous barbecues.

ukelele beach

9. Exoticism:
Admit it: vacationing in Hawaii is so last century (ahem, “Mad Men”). Guam, on the other hand, is the new exotic destination for America.

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10. A head start:
Guam is “where America’s Day begins” — quite literally. With it’s own timezone (Chamorro Standard Time), Guam wakes up 14 or 15 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, depending on Daylight Savings Time. The island celebrates New Year’s first in America and movies often premiere ahead of the rest of America.

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11. Romance:
Perhaps the island’s most famous landmark is Two Lovers’ Point, a dramatic and steep cliffside overlooking the Philippine Sea. According to Chamorro legend, two star-crossed lovers, forbidden from being together in life, leaped from the cliff so that they could be together in the afterlife. Not surprisingly, weddings are held there regularly.

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The Airfare Hack That Can Double Your Vacation for Free

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Why visit one country when you can see two? Many airlines let you do just that with free or low-cost stopovers.

Tom Nagy/Gallery Stock. This airfare hack can help you see Rio and Buenos Aires in one trip.

If you’re adventurous and want to get the most out of your airfare dollar, consider working a free stopover into your next international trip.

The first thing to know about a stopover is that it’s absolutely not the same as a layover. Far from being an inconvenience in the middle of a long-haul trip, a stopover is a legitimate stay—days, even weeks—in a city along the way to your final destination. Such an itinerary can afford you the opportunity to visit two cities on one ticket for about the same fare as you’d pay to simply fly directly to your destination.

For example, you could fly from New York to spend five days in Rio de Janeiro then continue on to visit Buenos Aires for a week for about the same price as a round-trip to just one of those cities.

While airlines occasionally charge for stopovers, often times they’ll offer them for free as a way to encourage tourism in their home regions or better compete against nonstop flights to particular destinations. (Even “free” stopovers do require you to pay some additional airport taxes; these are often just a small percentage of your overall fare.)

So how do you find these fares? Stopover information is buried in the fine print of fare rules, but you can find them using airfare search tools like Google’s ITA Software. All you need to do is click on “rules” when you pull up the details on a particular flight option. From there, you can search for the stopover section and see if one is allowed on the fare.

The truth is, though, that simple experimentation can yield good results. Pick two cities you want to visit then input them into the multi-city search available on many travel sites, like Expedia, Hipmunk, Kayak, or Orbitz. You’ll often see options that are reasonably priced, about the same as if you booked a typical round-trip to just one city. While it may not be apparent in the results, these are often fares that leverage free or low-cost stopover rules.

You can also take advantage of free stopovers on some award tickets booked with airlines miles. United MileagePlus allows one free stopover on round-trip international award tickets, and Alaska MileagePlan allows a stopover on any award. (American AAdvantage and Delta SkyMiles no longer offer free stopovers on awards.)

While stopover rules are always subject to change, here are just some of the trips that are possible.

Australia and New Zealand
Qantas and Virgin Australia often let you stopover for free in Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney on trips from the U.S., so there’s no need to buy a separate ticket to visit two of those cities. Air New Zealand offers a free stopover in Auckland, and Hawaiian Airlines offers one in Honolulu on the way to Australia.

Africa
Royal Air Maroc, with service from New York, offers free stopovers in Casablanca, even on trips to Europe, while South African Airways sometimes allows them in Johannesburg.

Asia
Cathay Pacific often offers a free stop in Hong Kong, while EVA Airways does on select flights to Taiwan. Air India and Jet Airways each allow one for many flights to India, letting you for example hit both Mumbai and Goa or Delhi and Chennai on one fare. Singapore Airlines offers a free stop in Singapore on some fares.

Europe
Aer Lingus lets you stop in your Ireland gateway as part of an onward journey to other European destinations, and Icelandair has one of the better publicized free stopover programs in Reykjavik. Virgin Atlantic offers a free stop in the U.K.—and prominently displays the option when you search for flights on its website.

Turkish Airlines offers a free Istanbul stop, and if the Turkish Airlines schedule requires you to spend at least ten hours in Istanbul, you get free hotel accommodations for up to two nights. LOT Polish Airlines, with service from Chicago and New York, allows a free stop in Poland, and Finnair offers one in Helsinki if you book via its call center.

Middle East
Emirates and Etihad Airways offer a free stop when connecting through their Dubai and Abu Dhabi hubs.

South America
Most South American airlines offer a free stop, including LATAM (which operates under the LAN and TAM brands), letting you for example fit both Brazil and Argentina into a trip. Copa also offers a free stop at its Panama City hub along the way.

 

 

From Popeye’s picturesque fishing village to the Star Wars desert planet of Tatooine: Movie sets that are still there for fans to visit

I love a good movie, and I just added a load more cool destinations to my To Go To list for the coming months! Thanks to Daily Mail Travel

  • Step into the shoes of your favourite film characters and visit the former movie sets that are still open to tourists
  • Like Captain Jack Sparrow, explore the picturesque cove that provided the setting for Pirates of the Caribbean 
  • Or take a two-hour tour of Hobbiton, featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, in Matamata, New Zealand

Stepping into the shoes of your favourite film character may not be quite as hard as you think.

Despite having wrapped filming years or sometimes even decades ago, many movie sets that were once specially and presumably, temporarily, built are still around.

Like Captain Jack Sparrow, are you keen to explore the shores of Port Royal, which is actually located in St Vincent and the Grenadines? Or would you prefer to visit the desert home of Luke Skywalker in Tozeur, Tunisia?

Here are some of the most picturesque (and most popular) former film sets.

Popeye’s Village – Mellieha, Malta

The 1980 live-action movie musical, Popeye, which starred Robin Williams, and was filmed just two miles from Mellieha, Malta

The 1980 live-action movie musical, Popeye, which starred Robin Williams, and was filmed just two miles from Mellieha, Malta

Now, the sailor's picturesque fishing village, called Anchor Bay, is open to the public seven days per week as an entertainment complexNow, the sailor’s picturesque fishing village, called Anchor Bay, is open to the public seven days per week as an entertainment complex

The village from the 1980 live-action feature, Popeye, is also known as Sweethaven Village, located at the north-west corner of the Mediterranean island of Malta.

The rustic, ramshackle town is located at Anchor Bay, which is just two miles from the Mellieha.

Though production has long since ceased, today it’s open to the public seven days per week as an open-air museum and family entertainment complex.

There are shows, rides and museums, as well as opportunities for children to meet the main characters from the show.

Tatooine – Tozeur, Tunisia

In Tunisia, the town of Tataouine actually inspired George Lucas to name his fictional desert plan Tatooine

In Tunisia, the town of Tataouine actually inspired George Lucas to name his fictional desert plan Tatooine

However, most scenes were filmed just outside of the town in Tozeur, where the set of Mos Espa still stands

However, most scenes were filmed just outside of the town in Tozeur, where the set of Mos Espa still stands

Tataouine is the town in Tunisia that inspired George Lucas to name his fictional desert planet Tatooine.

And while it wasn’t actually used during filming, several scenes were shot just on the outskirts of the town and in the nearby beach town of Djerba.

For die-hard fans, Luke Skywalker’s home still exists in Tozeur, as does the set of Mos Espa – and almost everything has been left intact over the years.

Ned’s tip: for five-star Tunisian luxury stay in Le Royal Hammamet Resort

Pirates of the Caribbean – Walliabou Bay, St Vincent and the Grenadines

On the picturesque island, leftover film sets still remain.

The picturesque island of St Vincent and the Grenadines proved the perfect filming location for Pirates of the Caribbean

In Wallilabou Bay, fans can retrace the steps of Captain Jack Sparrow exploring the clear waters and relaxing on the leftover sets

In Wallilabou Bay, fans can retrace the steps of Captain Jack Sparrow exploring the clear waters and relaxing on the leftover sets

The picturesque island of St Vincent and the Grenadines proved the perfect filming location for the second installment in the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, standing in for the town of Port Royal.

Interestingly, the ‘real’ Port Royal is a city located at the mouth of Kingston Harbour in Jamaica.

But, in Wallilabou Bay, fans of the films can retrace the steps of Captain Jack Sparrow and relax on the leftover film sets, explore the crystal clear waters and sunbathe on the dock or sandy beach.

There’s also a popular hotel and restaurant located on the bay, Wallilabou Anchorage, for grabbing a bit of grub.

Hunger Games District 12 – Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina

Eagle-eyed Hunger Games fans will recognise District 12 as a small ghost town outside of Asheville, North Carolina

Eagle-eyed Hunger Games fans will recognise District 12 as a small ghost town outside of Asheville, North Carolina

The small textile town of Henry Mill River Village in Burke County, wouldn't usually be considered a top tourist destination

The small textile town of Henry Mill River Village in Burke County, wouldn’t usually be considered a top tourist destination

The small textile town in Burke County, North Carolina, wouldn’t usually be considered a top tourist destination.

However, following the massive success of the Hunger Games film series, some eagle-eyed fans will better recognise the ramshackle town as Katniss Everdeen’s post-apocalyptic home of District 12.

However, don’t expect for many tourist attractions to pop up in the deserted ghost town – in fact, the abandoned homes shouldn’t even really be entered due to their collapsing floors.

Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit – Matamata, New Zealand

One of the most built up of all movie set destinations, fans of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies can easily experience Hobbiton

One of the most built up of all movie set destinations, fans of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies can easily experience Hobbiton

Located on private farmland near Matamata, New Zealand, the film set was completely rebuilt and can be explored during a two-hour tour

Located on private farmland near Matamata, New Zealand, the film set was completely rebuilt and can be explored during a two-hour tour

As one of the most built up of all movie set destinations, fans of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies are spoiled for choice when it comes to ways in which they can experience Hobbiton for themselves.

Located on private farmland near Matamata, New Zealand, the film set was completely rebuilt and can be explored during a fascinating two-hour guided tour.

During the tour, fans will take in hobbit holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill, double arched bridge and other structures and gardens built for the films.

And for those who just don’t want to leave once the sun goes down, some tour operators even offer overnight farmland stays.

Schindler’s List – Plaszow Labour Camp, Poland

At the Nazi concentration camp of Plaszow, located near Krakow, villa 22, also known as the 'Red House' still stands

At the Nazi concentration camp of Plaszow, located near Krakow, villa 22, also known as the ‘Red House’ still stands

In the film, Schindler's List, Commandant Amon Goeth oversaw the Plaszow concentration camp from the balcony of his infamous villa

In the film, Schindler’s List, Commandant Amon Goeth oversaw the Plaszow concentration camp from the balcony of his infamous villa

Thanks to Stephen Spielberg’s important film, Schindler’s List, the story of the Plaszow concentration camp has become one familiar to movie-watchers the world over.

The Nazi camp, located in the Podgorze district, 10 kilometres outside the city of Krakow, is highlighted in the film primarily as it pertains to the cruelty handed down by Commandant Amon Goeth.

And though the area has since changed, Goeth’s home is still standing, having been returned to the family who originally owned it after the war.

Located at number 22 and known as the ‘Red House,’ the villa overlooks the concentration camp.

M*A*S*H Sign – Malibu Creek State Park, California

Despite the fact that M*A*S*H wrapped several decades ago, fans still descend in droves to the popular outdoor set in California

Despite the fact that M*A*S*H wrapped several decades ago, fans still descend in droves to the popular outdoor set in California

Despite the fact that the television programme M*A*S*H went off air several decades ago, the site of the show’s outdoor set is still as popular as ever.

Malibu Creek State Park, located just a short drive from Los Angeles, is the former location ranch of 20th Century Fox studios, who owned the land between 1946 and 1974.

M*A*S*H was filmed between 1972 and 1983 in much the same way that a real unit would operate – electricity was sourced from powerful generators, and water came in on tanker trucks.

Today, fans can visit the rock pool and infamous sign, indicating the distance to several global destinations, such as Tokyo and Seoul.

Lone Star Township – Contrabando, Texas

Contrabando, Texas is a ghost town that was built initially as the set for a 1985 Western, but is better known as the set of Lone Star

Contrabando, Texas is a ghost town that was built initially as the set for a 1985 Western, but is better known as the set of Lone Star

Today, fans can explore all of the buildings - most of which are only facades - at the Big Bend Ranch State Park

Today, fans can explore all of the buildings – most of which are only facades – at the Big Bend Ranch State Park

Contrabando, Texas is a ghost town that was built initially as the set for the 1985 Western Uphill All The Way, but is known most as the setting of Lone Star in 1996.

The latter film starred Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey, and Elizabeth Pena and fans can explore all of the recognisable buildings from the flick at the Big Bend Ranch State Park.

However, don’t be too surprised when you step inside and realise that the extremely realistic looking buildings are actually nothing more than facades.

The Hills Have Eyes – Gas Haven petrol station in Souss-Massa-Draa, Morocco

The 2006 remake of the horror film, The Hills Have Eyes, was filmed on location in Morocco, where a Gas Haven petrol station was erected

The 2006 remake of the horror film, The Hills Have Eyes, was filmed on location in Morocco, where a Gas Haven petrol station was erected

Located just 15 minutes from Ouarzazate on the way to Agadir, the distinctly American structure is a favourite stop for tourists

Located just 15 minutes from Ouarzazate on the way to Agadir, the distinctly American structure is a favourite stop for tourists

The 2006 remake of the classic horror film, The Hills Have Eyes, was filmed on location in Morocco, where a Gas Haven petrol station was erected – and remains.

To find it, simply take a 15 minute drive along the desert road from Ouarzazate to Agadir in the southern part of the country.

And you likely won’t be alone, as car-loads of tourists are known for pulling up alongside the distinctly 1950s American structure to snap photos.

From there, consider returning to Ouarzazate, as the town is the starting point for many tourist treks through the Sahara.

Ned’s tip: check out this feature and this one on two of the most gorgeous hotels in Morocco

Best Summer Trips 2015

Courtesy of National Geographic      – Maryellen Kennedy Duckett

Make this a summer to remember by snowboarding in the Australian Alps, stargazing in a Sedona red rock canyon, or exploring a volcanic Global Geopark in South Korea. Whether you’re craving adventure or relaxation, our editors’ list of ten Best Summer Trips – plus one reader’s choice – offers a world of possibilities.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Pichu

Photograph by Erika Skogg

Make this the summer you take, or plan, that bucket-list trip through the Sacred Valley of the Inca to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Get inspired closer to home at two Washington, D.C., events: the Peru-focused Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June 24-28 and July 1-5) and the National Museum of the American Indian exhibition “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire” (June 26, 2015, through June 1, 2018). Then, book a group tour such as National Geographic Expeditions’ Peru: Land of the Inca, or a classic, four-day hiking trek to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail.

To help protect the integrity of the legendary route, only 500 government-issued Inca Trail permits are available per day. But limited access shouldn’t dissuade people from making the trip, says Alistair Butchers of G Adventures, which leads a variety of Sacred Valley tours. “It’s important for travelers to visit … and do so in a sustainable manner, so they can become ambassadors and help spread the word about the importance of sustainable tourism,” he says. “Through awareness and education we can help preserve iconic destinations such as the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.”

How to Get Around: If permits are sold out during your travel dates—or you’d rather not make the four-day, 27-mile Inca Trail trek—there are several alternate routes through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. G Adventures’ itineraries include a variety of Machu Picchu options ranging from easy day tours from Cusco (via train and bus), to multiday hiking trips along the less-traveled Lares, Salkantay, and Choquequirao routes.

Where to Stay: Peru’s first ecological community-owned and managed campsite opened in February 2015 in the remote Andean village of Cuncani. Located on the Lares route, the project was developed by G Adventures’ nonprofit Planeterra Foundation to help promote sustainable tourism in the Lares Valley. Any tour company can use the site, which includes eco-friendly amenities such as composting toilets and solar showers.

What to Eat: In the Andean region, guinea pig, or cuy (pronounced “kwee”), is a common specialty of the house. At small cuyerías (traditional cuy restaurants) in the Cusco region, order the crispy cuy al palo (guinea pig barbecued whole on a spit with the head, ears, and teeth intact). Or, fill up on the locally grown side dishes such as potatoes and corn on the cob.

What to Buy: Visit the Planeterra-supported Women’s Weaving Co-op in the indigenous Ccaccaccollo community. Here you can learn about traditional Andean weaving and watch the artists hand-spin alpaca fiber into yarn. Over 40 local women belong to the cooperative and sell their intricately woven textiles (including brightly colored blankets, ponchos, and hats) to Sacred Valley travelers.

What to Read Before You Go: Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time chronicles travel writer Mark Adams’s steps and often hilarious missteps along the original expedition route to Machu Picchu. While thoroughly entertaining, the book also serves as a quick primer on Inca history and Peruvian customs.

Practical Tip: Cusco, gateway city to Machu Picchu, sits at more than 11,000 feet above sea level. To avoid altitude sickness, drink lots of water and, if possible, relax (and let your body adjust) for a day or two in town before making a trek to Machu Picchu.

Helpful Links: Peru Tourism

Fun Fact: The Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu is part of the World Heritage site of Qhapaq Ñan, or the Andean Road System. Covering about 18,600 miles from modern-day Colombia in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south, the engineering marvel once linked the Inca capital, Cusco, to the farthest reaches of the empire.

Staff Tip: Don’t leave for Machu Picchu without visiting Cusco’s Mercado Central de San Pedro. The open-air market shows off the country’s incredible biodiversity with a wild assortment of tropical fruits, vegetables, and meats. It’s very impressive, and the chicken soup at the lunch counter helped cure my altitude sickness almost overnight. —Kevin Kunitake, assistant to editor in chief, National Geographic Traveler

Arizona

Photograph by Larry Pollock Photography

Photograph by Larry Pollock Photography

By day, Sedona’s dramatically sculpted red rock backcountry is the main draw for hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, and off-road “Jeepers.” But, at night, all eyes are on the skies. Named the world’s eighth International Dark Sky Community in 2014, Sedona (elevation 4,600 feet) is one of the best places in the world to witness celestial wonders such as a blue moon.

“Don’t think for a second that outdoor adventures end when the sun goes down in Sedona,” says Jennifer Wesselhoff of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. “That azure sky—so pure, perfect, and devastatingly blue all day—turns into a glittering blanket of heavenly bodies at night. Lack of light pollution combined with haze-free, low humidity desert skies make Sedona a paradise for stargazers.”

How to Get Around: Sedona is located in north-central Arizona two hours north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport via I-17 North. From the airport, rent a car or book a commercial shuttle. In Sedona, rent a Jeep for a half or full day to four-wheel on roads and trails in the surrounding Coconino National Forest.

Where to Stay: Located within Boynton Canyon and surrounded by red rock cliffs, Enchantment Resort is an oasis with minimal light pollution. The 218 guest casitas, junior suites, haciendas, and casas each have a private deck, patio, or balcony. Guest activities include guided stargazing with a telescope (Tuesdays and Saturdays, weather permitting); a two-hour full moon hike and private guided hikes; a summer solstice celebration week (June 14-21) with Native American dances; and new moon and full moon-themed specialty treatments (available only around those moon phases) at the onsite Mii amo Spa.

Even the resort’s restaurants are designed to optimize night views. On any full moon evening, watch the moon rise behind the Kachina Woman red rock formation from View 180, the indoor/outdoor, tapas-style restaurant and lounge.

What to Eat or Drink: Prickly pear cactus, also called “tuna” (the fruit part) and “paddles” (the leaves), is a local staple. Try the cactus fries (de-prickled, breaded, and flash-cooked paddles) with prickly pear dipping sauce at Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits in Sedona’s arts district. Prickly pear sweet fruit nectar is used to make jams, jellies, cocktails, ice cream, and more. Sit under the stars on the Barking Frog Grille outdoor patio, and sip a desert mojito (mixed with prickly pear cactus juice) or a prickly pear margarita.

What to Buy: Shop for Sedona-themed gifts, including handcrafted ceramics, weavings, blown glass, Native American jewelry, Hopi katsina figures, and Navajo sand paintings, at Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-PAH-keh) Arts & Crafts Village. Designed in the 1970s to replicate a traditional Mexican village with stone walkways and vine-covered stucco facades, Tlaquepaque is home to over 40 galleries and shops. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. (Closed Christmas and Thanksgiving.)

What to Read Before You Go: The current edition of Terence Dickinson’s classic stargazers’ resource, Night Watch: A Practical Guide to the Universe is updated for use through 2025 and includes helpful night-sky charts and astronomical photography tips.

Helpful Links: Visit Sedona, International Dark-Sky Association, and Arizona Tourism

Fun Fact: It takes more than three and a half hours to drive south from Sedona to Tucson. That’s time well spent if you’re heading to Bloom Night at Tohono Chul. The Tucson park is home to the nation’s largest collection of the night-blooming cereus Peniocereus greggii, known as the “queen of the night.” Most of the flowers bloom on a single night between mid-May and mid-July. Join the park’s Bloom Watch email list to get the date (sometimes with only 12 hours’ notice) of this year’s Bloom Night.

Staff Tip: Enchantment Resort, spectacularly set in Boynton Canyon, has access right from the property to hiking trails that head into the red rocks. Head out early to catch sunrise at Kachina Woman, the sentinel of the canyon, for unparalleled views of the valley and the Coconino National Forest; look for hot-air balloon rides launching in the distance. The area around Kachina is an energy vortex and is said to have uplifting effects. Follow your hike with a frittata and smoothie at the Mii Amo Spa café. Ask your server if the “angel” (or any other defined shadows that they’ve named) has appeared on the canyon wall viewable from the windows of the café. For a totally different experience, drive to Oak Creek Canyon—often described as the smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon and noted for its scenic beauty—for a hike along Oak Creek, a tributary of the Verde River. Overnight in a cozy cabin (with stone walls, fireplaces, and Native American-inspired furnishings) at Briar Patch Inn, a hidden find situated on the lush banks of the creek. —Susan O’Keefe, associate editor, National Geographic Traveler

Konstanz, Germany

Photograph by Sonderegger Christof, Prisma Bildagentur AG/Alamy

Photograph by Sonderegger Christof, Prisma Bildagentur AG/Alamy

Pedal at your own pace through three countries and around Germany’s largest lake on the Lake Constance (or Bodensee) cycle route. Located in the northern foothills of the Alps, the 40-mile-long lake—essentially a bulge in the Rhine River—is “narrow enough to see across,” says Jim Johnson, president of BikeToursDirect. The asphalt Bodensee-Radweg bike path covers nearly the entire 170-mile circumference of the lake, adds Johnson, who has pedaled the route, and whose tour company offers self-guided Lake Constance biking itineraries (April to October). “By the time you make your way around the lake, you’ve visited three countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland,” he says. “The shoreline is dotted with magical, medieval cities and towns, the occasional castle, and peaceful rural villages.” If you’re not up for biking the whole route, hop a ferry to cross the lake or connect to the next city, suggests Johnson. “It’s as easy as rolling your bike onboard. Then, watch the shore, villages, forests, castles, and Alps flow by.”

How to Get Around: Konstanz, located in southwestern Germany, is the German gateway city for Lake Constance. The closest international airport is Zurich in Switzerland (an hour by bus and about 80 minutes by train). Bike rentals are available in Konstanz and at shops around the lake. BikeToursDirect itineraries include rental bikes, detailed maps, tour recommendations, ferry information, lodging, breakfast, and daily luggage transfers.

Where to Stay: The luxurious, lakefront RIVA Konstanz integrates an elegant 1909 art nouveau villa (the former Seehotel Siber) into a sleek, modern hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows, a rooftop pool, and a nautilus shell-shaped floating staircase, which spirals up six stories through the center of the hotel. “Biking at the Lake” packages include two nights’ lodging; daily breakfast, bag lunch, and dinner; bicycles; and a 25-minute back massage in the spa.

What to Eat or Drink: Local specialties are a cross-cultural smorgasbord featuring the fresh bounty of the lake and local farms. Try eglifilet, a perch-like delicacy often served fried with almonds; hearty Swabian dishes such as maultaschen, sizable ravioli-like pockets filled with combinations of meat or vegetables; typical Baden cuisine including schäuferle, cured and smoked pork shoulder simmered in wine, bay leaves, and cloves until tender; and Austrian kaiserschmarren, light, shredded pancakes made with a sweet batter, baked in butter, and topped with zwetschkenröster (plum compote).

What to Buy: At Barrique in Konstanz, the homemade peach, pear, and apple liqueurs and other local libations are freshly bottled for each customer. The shop also carries a selection of wines and pastas, chocolates, and cooking oils.

What to Watch Before You Go: The 2008 James Bond thriller Quantum of Solace includes a pivotal chase scene filmed on the shores of Lake Constance in the Bregenz Festival Opera House and above the lake’s surface on the Floating Stage.

Practical Tip: Invest in a couple of pairs of padded mountain bike shorts. Baggier than the tight-fitting road cycling shorts, the mountain bike version offers recreational riders three important benefits: extra cushioning; pockets to store stuff; and a more casual, less Tour de France look.

Helpful Links: Lake Constance Tourism, Lake Constance Cycle Path, SouthWest Germany, and Germany Tourism

Fun Fact: There are international borders around Lake Constance, but not across it. No treaty delineating water rights has been signed by Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. So, for now, the liquid portion of Lake Constance is the only borderless place in Europe.

Staff Tip: Just an hour’s drive south of Friedrichshafen you’ll enter one of the world’s smallest, and richest, sovereign nations: the principality of Liechtenstein. Its size—more compact than Washington, D.C.—makes it is easy to explore. First stop: the cozy capital, Vaduz, home to shops, museums, a Michelin-starred restaurant (Marée, on Mareestrasse), and one of the most photographed royal residences in Europe. Crowning a hilltop overlooking the town, Vaduz Castle is the active home of the Liechtenstein royal family, which has presided over the principality since the 1100s. Though the castle isn’t open to the public, as of March 2015 visitors can check out the royal collections of world-class art and weaponry at Vaduz’s new Liechtenstein Treasure Chamber—then tour a look-alike castle, the hill-topping Gutenberg Castle, only 15 minutes to the south by car. —Jayne Wise, senior editor, National Geographic Traveler

Staff Tip: Get off your bike and literally onto Lake Constance to enjoy a tasty German beer while relaxing on the deck of a ferry—you can catch one in towns along the lake, as we did in Meersburg. Take in views of the snowcapped peaks of Austria and Switzerland on the way to the island of Mainau, which can also be accessed by a causeway minutes from Konstanz. You can easily spend a day on Mainau enjoying one of Europe’s finest gardens, which boasts exotic trees, flowers, and shrubs from all over the world. During the summer months, more than 10,000 roses from more than a thousand varieties blanket the island with color and perfumed smells. My kids and I enjoyed visiting Mainau’s Butterfly House, where butterflies fluttered through the air—one even landing on my shoulder—before grabbing a leisurely lunch at the Schwedenschenke restaurant. Dating to 1937, the restaurant is the oldest on the island. Its open-air setting, surrounded by beautiful flowers, was where we enjoyed a tasty traditional German salad, along with delicious fresh fish from Lake Constance. We finished our day there with an island treasure hunt, the payoff being some delicious German chocolate. —Leigh Borghesani, deputy art director, National Geographic Traveler

Athens, Greece   June 1-August 31

Photograph by Haris Akriviadis, Corbis

Photograph by Haris Akriviadis, Corbis

Experience international theater, opera, classical music, and dance performances in a variety of magnificent modern and ancient spaces. Venues for the 60th Athens and Epidaurus Festival range from the industrial Peiraios 260 (housed in a former Athens furniture factory) to the ancient theater of Epidaurus, built in 340 B.C., buried for nearly 1,500 years, and renowned for its preserved limestone tiers and near perfect acoustics. The festival program includes Greek productions (ancient tragedies and new plays), a Greco-Japanese co-production of Homer’sNekyia, and new interpretations of European classics.

New for 2015: performances designed to spark dialogue about topical Greek issues such as homelessness, job loss, financial insecurity, refugees, and immigrants. During the interactive street performance “In the Middle of the Street” (July 7), audience members can use an MP3 player and earphones to hear the voices and stories of Athens’s newly homeless.

How to Get Around: Most festival venues are in Athens and are accessible via public transportation (bus, trolley bus, Metro, or electric railway). Two venues—the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus and the Little Theatre of Epidaurus—are located in Argolis on the Peloponnese peninsula, about two hours west of Athens by car or bus. Reduced intercity bus fares from Athens are available when purchasing tickets for performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus.

Where to Stay: The 15-suite AVA Hotel & Suites is ideally located in historic Plaka, Athens’s oldest quarter. From the hotel, it’s only a ten-minute walk to festival performances at the ancient Herodeon (The Odeon of Herodes Atticus). Shops, restaurants, the Acropolis Museum, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Temple of Zeus are even closer. All suites have kitchenettes and balconies. Splurge on the third-floor Exclusive Suite for the extra space, private veranda, and Acropolis views.

What to Eat or Drink: The Acropolis Museum restaurant in Athens stays open until midnight on Fridays for a gourmet dinner service (reservations required). The menu includes Greek specialties such as San Mihali, a cow’s milk cheese from the island of Syros; Metsovone, a smoked cheese from Metsovo in northwestern Greece; fresh fish; and smoked veal fillet with truffle oil and dried fruits. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide spectacular night views of the Acropolis.

What to Buy: Athens’s bustling Central Market is where locals go to buy fresh produce, fish, and every imaginable part of a cow, chicken, lamb, or rabbit. To steer clear of the sheep’s heads, stick to the perimeter stalls, where vendors peddle spices, nuts, dried fruits, baked goods, coffee, and small household items.

What to Read or Watch Before You Go: Originally published in 1941, Henry Miller’s classic memoir The Colossus of Maroussi recounts his time spent living in pre-World War II Greece and includes pivotal scenes in Athens and Epidaurus.

Helpful Links: Visit Greece and Athens and Epidaurus Festival

Fun Fact: There’s not a bad seat in the house at the Ancient Theatre at Epidaurus, considered the best-preserved ancient Greek theatre. Built into a natural hillside, the semicircular theater has limestone bench seats and offers unobstructed views for up to 14,000 people. The setting and design combine to create exceptional acoustics; a soft whisper uttered in the central performing space, or orchestra, easily can be heard 55 tiers up in the theater’s last row.

England

Photograph by Michael Dunning, Getty Images

Photograph by Michael Dunning, Getty Images

Celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter,” (June 15) by driving one or more of the six Magna Carta Trails. Located throughout England, the routes are designed to actively engage visitors in the history of the Magna Carta, the document that established the principle that no man, not even the king, is above the law. The landmark charter helped shape modern judicial systems.

Each trail includes key charter towns; historical sites related to the year 1215; and 800th-anniversary events, such as the official commemoration ceremony at Runnymede Meadows (June 15) and the Magna Carta Festival (June 13-14).

Designed for self-guided travel, the trails allow time to soak in the history of places such as the Salisbury Cathedral’s 13th-century Chapter House, which holds one of the best-preserved copies of the Magna Carta.

“The Chapter House is regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval buildings, and, with a stunning cathedral that boasts Britain’s tallest [spire], this visit is not simply a quick stop on a trail but a unique and breathtaking snapshot of world history,” says Ruth Lancey, director of Great British Trips. Her recommendation: Allow ample time to “quietly contemplate, marvel, and meditate on the sacred, significant, and spiritual wonder of all this building has to offer.”

How to Get Around: Review the Magna Carta Trails to chart a single- or multitrail driving route based on your interests and time. The suggested itineraries are two to four days depending on the route. Rent a car at the airport closest to your desired starting point. Or combine highlights of each trail on Great British Trips’ 11-night Magna Carta Trail Tour and travel by rail, rental car, and the Tube (London Underground).

Where to Stay: Rustic and modern self-catering cottages, and rooms on working farms and in Victorian farmhouses, are available through the farmer-owned Farm Stay consortium. Accommodations are organized by region, making it easy to find options on or near the trails you are driving.

Where to Eat: Embrace your inner knight at the Medieval Banquet London. The four-course feast fit for a king includes red wine and ale, and sides of sword fighting, dancing, and singing. The interactive dinner theater experience is staged within the vaulted cellars of the historic Ivory House in St. Katharine Docks. While not required, diners can become part of the two-hour show by donning period dress. Rental costumes (including lords, ladies, jesters, and wenches) are available nightly on a first-come, first-served basis.

What to Buy: The online Magna Carta Shop features approved Magna Carta Trust 800th-anniversary items, including 480 framed Magna Carta facsimiles created on hand-cut parchment to replicate the appearance of the original.

What to Watch Before You Go: Narrated by British comedian, actor, and author Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, the animated short films What Is Magna Carta? and 800 Years of Magna Carta provide a quick (less than eight minutes) and entertaining overview of the celebrated document’s history and legacy.

Practical Tip: To spend more time walking and less time in traffic or searching for parking, use the convenient park-and-ride sites located just outside the towns and cities along the Magna Carta Trails (and throughout England). Park for free or a nominal fee in the park-and-ride lot, and then, ride a bus or tram (streetcar) to the nearby city or town center.

Helpful Links: Magna Carta 800th and Magna Carta Trails

Fun Fact: The National Trust is encouraging Britons to host afternoon “LiberTeas” on June 14, the day before the Magna Carta’s anniversary. During the nationwide teatime, participants can tune into BBC coverage of the parade of boats—including the royal barge Gloriana.

Alberta, Canada

Photograph by Marc J Chalifoux, epicphotography.ca/Edmonton Street Performers Festival

Photograph by Marc J Chalifoux, epicphotography.ca/Edmonton Street Performers Festival

Edmonton is welcoming the world this summer. The Festival City is hosting a series of international events, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 (June 6-July 4) and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival (August 6-9). Multicultural artworks, crafts, performances, and foods representing more than 85 nations will be featured at the Edmonton Heritage Festival (August 1-3).

“I love the summer mainly because of all the festivals—Heritage Days, Taste of Edmonton, Fringe Festival, and the Street Performers Festival are a few of my favorites,” says Chris Szydlowski, owner of River Valley Adventure Co., which offers mountain bike rentals and guided Segway tours of the Edmonton River Valley. “This is going to be an amazing year to be in Edmonton [during the] summer, and to feel the vibe and energy of our city.”

How to Get Around: The Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) Route 747 bus provides express service from Edmonton International Airport to Century Park station. From here, transfer to the LRT (Light Rail Transit) Capital Line to reach downtown hotels and festival sites. For travel throughout the city, use the ETS Trip Planner to chart a route via bus or LRT.

Where to Stay: The 98-room Metterra Hotel on Whyte is located in the historic Old Strathcona neighborhood, home to an eclectic collection of restaurants, bars, and boutiques, and site of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (August 13-23). The hotel’s design incorporates natural elements (earth, water, fire, and air) and promotes sustainability. In 2015, Metterra became the largest hotel in Canada to be fully powered by clean, pollution-free electricity. Rates include breakfast and wine tasting (daily except Sundays).

What to Eat or Drink: At local-focused North 53, if an ingredient isn’t made in Canada, it doesn’t make it onto the menu. The offerings change regularly to reflect what’s available fresh. Snacks, desserts, and small and large plates—such as a whole roasted chicken, pork cabbage rolls, or short ribs glazed in beer—are designed to be shared. A separate late-night menu (Fridays and Saturdays, 11 p.m.-2 a.m.) includes deliciously decadent options ranging from fried chicken with sour cream and onion dip to cognac ice cream. Reservations required for tables. Bar seating is first come, first served. Closed Mondays.

What to Buy: The TIX on the Square shop, operated by the Edmonton Arts Council, stocks local Alberta products such as Bro Bricks, handmade soaps for men. Scents range from the nostalgic and bestselling “Barbershop” to more potent blends, including “Beer & Wasabi” and “Rum & Coke.” Saturdays, shop for artisanal gifts and baked goods at Old Strathcona Farmers Market and City Market.

What to Watch Before You Go: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, includes scenes filmed at historic Fort Edmonton Park and on the park’s working 1919 Baldwin steam train.

Practical Tip: The Edmonton Folk Music Festival sells out quickly. To increase your chances of scoring an entry wristband, register for the festival’s free e-newsletter, and check the online ticket swap board.

Helpful Links: Edmonton Tourism and Travel Alberta

Fun Fact: Year-round, Edmonton is one of Canada’s sunniest cities, with about 2,300 total hours of sunshine annually. The lightest and brightest days typically are in June when the sun rises at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t set until around 10 p.m.

Singapore    August 7-10

Photograph by Thant Zaw Wai, Alamy

Photograph by Thant Zaw Wai, Alamy

Singapore is hosting its biggest ever National Day celebration this year in honor of the young city-state’s 50th birthday (August 9). The planned four-day Jubilee Weekend is “the perfect time for visitors to witness Singapore’s creative energy and spirit on full display,” says Kershing Goh of the Singapore Tourism Board. Jubilee highlights include nightly fireworks shows over Marina Bay, free or discounted admission to several museums, and a colossal Sing50 Concert (August 7) performed by a nearly all-Singaporean cast. The can’t-miss event is the National Day Parade, which, for the first time, will span the entire Marina Bay area from Gardens by the Bay to the Padang, the green, historic heart of Singapore. Key civic buildings bordering the Padang include City Hall, where founding father Lee Kuan Yew declared Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965, and Parliament House, where Lee’s body lay in state following his death in March 2015.

How to Get Around: Use the efficient Singapore MRT (mass rapid transit) system to travel from the airport to downtown and throughout the city-state. The Changi Airport MRT Station is located on the basement level of terminals 2 and 3, and most tourist attractions are located within walking distance of an MRT station. At the airport MRT station’s TransitLink Ticket Office, buy a Singapore Tourist Pass for unlimited MRT travel for one, two, or three days.

Where to Stay: Built in 1928 as the General Post Office, the Palladian-style Fullerton Hotel Singapore has 400 rooms and a prime Fullerton Heritage Precinct address. The waterfront precinct includes upscale restaurants and shops, plus the ultraluxurious Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, Fullerton Waterboat House, Clifford Pier, and Customs House. Book a Golden Jubilee SG50 room package (through December 2015) to enjoy special perks such as a daily breakfast buffet, dining credit, and one-way limousine airport transfer.

What to Eat: Singapore’s hawker (street food) centers are impeccably clean food courts serving fast and affordable local and international foods. Two of the most popular are Maxwell Road Hawker Centre near Chinatown and the financial district’s landmark Lau Pa Sat food market built in 1894 and completely renovated in June 2014. Local hawker specialties include Singaporean chili crab (stir-fried crabs in a savory and sweet tomato-chili sauce) and Hainanese chicken rice (typically served as separate small dishes of poached chicken, fragrant rice, chili-lime sauce, ginger puree, and thick soy sauce). Inside tip: Singaporeans use tissue packs to chope (“Singlish” for save or reserve) a table while they scout the hawker stalls for food.

What to Buy: Visit any Ya Kun location to try traditional kaya (the literal translation is “rich” in Malay) toast and buy a jar of kaya jam to bring home. Kaya toast is a ubiquitous Singaporean breakfast staple and quick snack. Sweet and creamy kaya jam is made from coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and aromatic pandan (screw pine) leaves commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking.

What to Read or Watch Before You Go: Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel Crazy Rich Asians is a satiric, over-the-top look at the lives of three jetsetter Chinese-Singaporean families. Dozens of footnotes explain Singaporean words and expressions, including commonly heard Singlish terms.

Cultural Tip: Food is essential to Singaporean culture. Instead of saying, “How are you?” locals commonly use the traditional Singaporean Chinese greeting: “Have you eaten?” The polite reply is, “Yes. Have you?”

Helpful Links: Singapore Tourism, SG50, and The Straits Times

Fun Fact: Singlish is a verbal shorthand blending elements of English and other languages (especially Malay, Hokkien, and Cantonese). In multilingual Singapore, Singlish is widely used in casual conversation. English-based Singlish expressions, such as “can die” (an exclamation of simultaneous despair and horror) and “chicken feed or chicken” (“easy”), can be particularly confusing for English-speaking visitors.

Bermuda

Photograph by Akil J. Simmons

Photograph by Akil J. Simmons

Cup Match is Bermuda’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. The main event (July 29 to August 2) pits the island’s two cricket teams—St. George’s and Somerset—against each other and sparks a multiday, islandwide celebration. Cup Match Summer Splash events include BeachFest on Horseshoe Bay Beach, July 31, and the Non-Mariners Race (a zany spectacle with patchwork “vessels”), August 2. The cricket competition—hosted by St. George’s Cricket Club this year—is part of the island’s two-day national holiday commemorating Bermuda’s colonization and the end of slavery.

“If you want to experience Bermuda like a local—at its most welcoming, its most lively, its most fun—join us for Cup Match,” says Shawn Crockwell, Bermuda Minister of Tourism and Transport. “All over Bermuda, you’ll see locals sporting their favorite team’s color: dark blue and light blue for St. George’s, and dark blue and red for Somerset.” And, if Cup Match is your first foray into the often confusing world of cricket wickets, stumps, bowlers, and bails, relax. “The Bermudians you sit next to in the stands will be happy to help you with the finer points of the game,” Crockwell says.

How to Get Around: The international airport is located in St. George’s parish on Bermuda’s eastern end, while many resorts are clustered on the South Shore. The capital city, Hamilton, is located at the center of the main island and is Bermuda’s retail, restaurant, and tourist hub. Check to see if your hotel offers airport transfers (reservations required). Or, take a taxi or public bus from the airport.

For island-wide travel, use the ubiquitous pink and blue Bermuda Breeze public buses and the public SeaExpress ferries. For shorter trips, rent a motorized scooter or a hybrid electric bike or mountain bike. Due to strict environmental laws, no rental cars are available to tourists.

Where to Stay: All 88 guestrooms and suites have water views at the posh and properly British Rosewood Tucker’s Point. Conveniently located in St. George’s parish (home to the airport and the St. George’s Cricket Club), the luxury hotel is part of the 200-acre Tucker’s Point Club golf community. Guest amenities include a private pink-sand beach, multiple pools, a croquet lawn, and a dive and watersports center offering kayak and boat rentals, snorkel tours, catamaran cruises, and dive excursions.

What to Eat or Drink: At Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy on Water Street in St. George’s, order the deep-fried fish sandwich like a local: on raisin bread, topped with tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato, grilled Bermuda onions, cheese, hot sauce, and coleslaw, and accompanied by a grape soda. The colossal sandwich comes wrapped in aluminum foil and is big enough for two. For quick snacks, stop at the nearest gas station. Most stations carry local-made foods such as pound cake, seasoned cookies, and savory pastry pies with beef, chicken, or vegetable filling.

What to Buy: Upscale retailer A.S. Cooper & Sons Limited has six island locations, each carrying a specific selection of Bermuda-made brands. Check the website to find out which locations offer notable island favorites such as TABS (The Authentic Bermuda Shorts), Horton’s Original Bermuda Black Rum Cakes, and jewelry inspired by the island’s flora and fauna from Bermudian artist Alexandra Mosher.

What to Read Before You Go: The Game of Cricket: All You Need to Know About the Summer Game is a conversational guide covering the sport’s basic history, rules, terms, and traditions.

Cultural Tip: Proper manners, including acknowledging others with the more formal “Good morning” and “Good afternoon,” always are appreciated. But, it’s also helpful to know a bit of Bermy (Bermuda) slang such as “Wopnin?” (What’s happening?) and “greeze” (food or a big meal), as in: “I’m hungry. Where can I get a greeze?”

Helpful Links: Bermuda Tourism and Bermuda Cup Match

Fun Facts: Cup Match is the only time when gambling is legal in Bermuda. The government-sanctioned game Crown and Anchor is a simple board and dice game traditionally played by British sailors. Look for the Crown and Anchor tent at the Cup Match cricket field to watch the raucous action or try your luck.

Staff Tip: On the Sunday immediately after Cup Match, normally proper Bermudians let loose at the annual Non-Mariner’s Race, where residents attempt to propel their barely seaworthy floats, often with satirical themes, across Mangrove Bay, to the raucous shouts of spectators. The first vessel to sink usually wins. —Marilyn Terrell, chief researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

26 Aug 2013 --- Exhibit in the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia. --- Image by © Jon Hicks/Corbis

26 Aug 2013 — Exhibit in the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia. — Image by © Jon Hicks/Corbis

Look beyond Philadelphia’s “Cradle of Liberty” historic sites to discover a wealth of other world-class venues. One city treasure hiding in plain sight is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the only U.S. stop (June 24 to September 13, 2015) for the “Discovering the Impressionists” exhibition showcasing more than 80 works by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Manet, and others.

There’s also Opera Philadelphia, closing its 40th anniversary season with Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (June 5 to 14). And, across the street from Independence Mall is the state-of-the-art National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), sole U.S. host of the “Richard Avedon: Family Affairs” photography exhibition from Jerusalem’s Israel Museum (through August 2).

“Old City is an incredibly vibrant neighborhood where visitors can relive the founding of our nation as well as cutting edge art and culture,” says Josh Perelman, NMAJH chief curator and director of exhibition and collections. Perelman suggests learning about the nation’s founding documents at the National Constitution Center and about the history of science at the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum. He adds, “I also recommend seeing the world-class performances at the Arden [Theatre Company] or Painted Bride [Art Center]; stopping at Carpenters’ Hall, the country’s first museum; and touring the numerous galleries that line Second Street.”

How to Get Around: The 25-block Center City (Philadelphia’s downtown) is easy to navigate thanks to William Penn’s grid street design and the helpful “Walk! Philadelphia” directional signs. Walk, and use taxis or public transportation. The One-Day Independence Pass provides unlimited, single-day travel on all SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) buses, trolleys, subways, and trains for only $12. Another option for short trips is Indego, Philadelphia’s new bike share program.

Where to Stay: Stay on campus at the Inn at Penn, the 243-room, luxury Hilton property at the University of Pennsylvania. The slower pace of Penn’s summer session makes campus life a welcome respite after a busy day of museum hopping. Located in University City across the Schuylkill River from Center City. Best views are from top (sixth) floor corner guestrooms.

What to Eat or Drink: Food trucks are out in full force in summer. Use Food Truck Philly to get a fix of what you’re hungry for or to locate the nearest mobile kitchen. Local favorites to look for include the Dapper Dog (try the Mack, a hot dog topped with mac and cheese) and Pitruco wood-fired pizza, owned and operated by two northwest Philly natives.

What to Buy: Sign up for the guided Taste of Philly Tour (Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m.) to get an insider look at the Reading Terminal Market. Opened in 1982, Reading Terminal is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers market. Shop for homegrown and locally made items, including Lancaster County Amish quilts and breads.

What to Read or Watch Before You Go: Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Tom Gralish and journalist Michael Vitez includes 52 profiles and 100 photos of “Rocky runners”—people who visit the Philadelphia Art Museum to conquer the museum’s steps a la Rocky Balboa (played by actor Sylvester Stallone) in the 1976 Oscar-winning film Rocky.

Helpful Links: Visit Philadelphia

Fun Fact: The “Richard Avedon: Family Affairs” exhibit at the NMAJH includes The Family, the iconic Rolling Stone magazine collection of 69 black-and-white portraits of 1970s political, media, and corporate power players. Published a couple of weeks before the 1976 U.S. presidential election, The Family is missing one key member: former President Richard Nixon. His secretary, Rose Mary Woods, is pictured instead.

Staff Tip: South Philly’s Italian Market celebrates its Cent’anni, or hundred-year anniversary, in 2015 but strolling along Ninth Street never gets old for me. Inhale deeply inside the Spice Corner or find rare culinary gadgets at Fante’s Kitchen Store to work up an appetite before shopping for the perfect picnic provisions: homemade mozzarella from Claudio’s, salami from Di Bruno Bros., fresh ravioli from Talluto’s, and, of course, cannoli for dessert from Termini Brothers Bakery to get a taste of the neighborhood’s history. —Chistine Blau, researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Victoria, Australia

Photograph by Bill Bachman, Alamy

Photograph by Bill Bachman, Alamy

Escape the heat by hitting the slopes in Victoria’s ski country. The region’s resorts offer a wide array of snow activities including dogsled rides, tobogganing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. Use Melbourne as a base for day trips to beginner-friendly Mount Baw Baw, or stay slopeside at major alpine resorts such as Mount Hotham, billed as the “powder capital” of Australia, or Falls Creek, Victoria’s largest alpine resort.

“The Maze area [at Falls Creek] is the perfect place to test your skills,” says Falls Creek marketing executive Victoria Gregory. “Surrounded by gum trees, you’ll discover secret powder stashes and new runs hidden within the trees. This distinctly Australian skiing experience reminds you you’re in the Australian alps, with a view looking onto Mount Bogong, Victoria’s highest peak.”

How to Get Around: Since tire chains are required (in the trunk or on the tires depending on road conditions) during snow season, shuttle buses are a safe, stress-free way to travel from Melbourne to alpine resorts. Purchase tickets online. For Mount Hotham, use Snowball Express. For Falls Creek, choose either FallsBus or Falls Creek Coach Service. For Mount Baw Baw, take a Mountain-Top Experience shuttle directly to the resort (two hours and ten minutes). Or, ride the V/Line train to Moe Station (two hours) and then, take the shuttle (one hour) to the resort.

Where to Stay: Ski or snowboard down to the Falls Creek express lift from the Elk at Falls, a combination budget ski lodge and upscale apartment complex located a five-minute walk from Falls Creek Village restaurants and shops. The two- and four-bedroom apartments have full kitchens and private balconies. In the 34-bed lodge, there’s a communal kitchen and basic rooms accommodating two to eight guests.

What to Eat or Drink: Choose the “Feed Us” dinner option (available for parties of four or more) at Hotham’s upscale White Room. The chef will surprise you with a selection of seasonal plates such as grilled Mooloolaba king prawns, wombok (cabbage) slaw, and smoked lamb croquettes. White Room dishes typically include local ingredients such as Milawa cheese and Harrietville trout, Kiewa milk, and Hopkins River beef.

What to Buy: Browse one of Melbourne’s neighborhood bookstores to pick up a read for the shuttle ride to ski country. Local booksellers include Hill of Content, Paperback Bookshop, and Yarraville’s Sun Bookshop, located in the original concession stand of the art deco Sun Theatre.

What to Watch Before You Go: Winner of six Australian Film Institute Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, My Brilliant Career is the 1979 film adaptation of Miles Franklin’s quintessentially Australian and internationally acclaimed first novel, written in 1901.

Practical Tip: Falls Creek’s free Mountain Orientation Tours are led by local experts and are particularly helpful for first-time visitors. Join a tour (11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays) to learn about the resort’s best ski runs and figure out the fastest route back to your lodging at day’s end.

Helpful Links: Ski Victoria and Visit Melbourne

Fun Fact: Alpine National Park includes 10 of Victoria’s 11 highest mountains.

Jeju Island, South Korea

Photograph by Andrea Canella, Getty Images

Photograph by Andrea Canella, Getty Images

Jeju’s coastal resorts are popular vacation destinations, but the wild areas beyond the beaches are why Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the entire island is designated as the Jeju Global Geopark. The park’s premier site is 6,397-foot Hallasan (South Korea’s highest mountain), a shield volcano with a summit crater lake. Additional geomorphologic features found on Jeju include spectacular volcanic cones and craters, dramatic waterfalls, ever evolving rocky shores, and the Geomunoreum lava tube system, considered the finest cave system of its kind in the world.

Three designated Geo-Trails link many of the main geological sites and connect to six Geo-Park villages. Accompanying brochures (available in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese) include maps and information about local geology, history, culture, and daily life. Walk the self-guided trails or book a custom eco-tour with a local, English-speaking guide such as Jejueco Tours. Owner Victor Ryashencev, who also runs owns a Jeju eco-lodge, personally leads small group treks to waterfalls, folk villages, seaside cliffs, mountain peaks, and less-traveled island locations. One of his favorite geological wonders to share with visitors, he says, is Jusangjeolli with its hexagonal-shaped rocks reminiscent of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway.

How to Get Around: Jeju International Airport is located on the island’s northern coast in Jeju, the largest and capital city of Jeju province. From here, rent a car or use city and intercity buses to travel around the island. Most major resorts and hotels also are stops on the limousine bus (airport shuttle) route. For day hikes, walk the Jeju Olle Trail, a whole-island coastal trek network made up of 26 hiking paths. Each Olle Trail segment takes between four and eight hours to walk.

Where to Stay: The ten-room Jejueco Suites is a small eco-lodge set amid tangerine fields in southern Jeju. Husband and wife owners Victor Ryashencev and Natasha Nazarenko have implemented several sustainable practices at the lodge, including harvesting rainwater for cleaning and gardening, and heating water and some rooms with solar power. Three-day eco-tour packages include room, breakfast, and excursions with an English-speaking guide.

What to Eat: Traditional Jeju foods include omaegi-tteok, a rice cake made from black glutinous millet and covered with bean powder and red azuki beans. The donut-shaped cake typically is a summer treat (available May to July), and is best eaten fresh and hot at a rice cake shop or at the Dongmun Traditional Market. Restaurants around the market serve other island specialties, such as gogi-guksu (noodle soup with Heukdwaeji, a black pig species found on Jeju), jeonbok dolsot-bap (abalone hot stone pot rice), haemul-jeongol (seafood hot pot), and miyeok-guk (sea urchin seaweed soup).

What to Buy: At the Jeju Folk Arts Complex in Jeju, shop for handcrafted items such as flowing, persimmon-dyed galot clothing (cotton work wear), kat (Korean horsetail hair hat), bamboo charong (rice cake container), and ceramic jageundok (small pot) and danji (small jar).

What to Watch Before You Go: The Diving Women of Jeju: Part 1 (2012), a documentary by the Korea Tourism Organization and National Geographic Channel, provides a rare glimpse into the lives of Jeju’s remaining haenyeo, or sea women, and features scenes filmed at Jeju Global Geopark sites, such as Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and Hallasan.

Helpful Links: Jeju Global Geopark and Visit Korea

Fun Fact: Wearing only simple weighted belts, wet suits, and masks (no flippers, air tanks, or snorkels), Jeju’s haenyeo can free-dive down 65 feet or more to collect seaweed, conch, abalone, octopus, and other sea creatures. Even more remarkable, most haenyeo working today are age 60 and older, and many have practiced their trade for several decades. Learn about the island’s haenyeo culture and traditions at the Haenyeo Museum.

 

 

A Collection of Lodges That Inspire

Stunning piece here from National Geographic

From an Alaskan fjord log cabin to a private Caribbean eco-island: National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World adds 14 new retreats to its list (and these pictures show why they qualify)

  • The National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World launched in January 2015 with 24 charter properties
  • It has now increased by 14, with each incredible lodge focused on  a commitment to excellence and sustainability
  • Properties include Cuixmala, set within a 25,000-acre biosphere in Costalegre, Mexico

Located in some of the most spectacular places around the globe, there are a number of rare retreats which push the hotel experience way beyond travellers’ expectations.

The National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World seeks out accommodation that breaks the mould of hotel stays and has just added 14 new paradise lodges to its impressive portfolio.

From a historic hacienda in Mexico to beautiful log cabins at the mouth of an Alaskan fjord to a stunning safari camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta region, the new additions it’s hoped, in the words of National Geographic, will help people discover how ‘staying can be truly extraordinary’.

A private island in the Windward Islands, Petit St. Vincent is an elegant, secluded Caribbean paradise for those who love sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, or just reading on an empty beach

A private island in the Windward Islands, Petit St. Vincent is an elegant, secluded Caribbean paradise for those who love sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, or just reading on an empty beach

At the stunning  ol Donyo Lodge, on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills, wildlife teems on the slopes below and Mount Kilimanjaro towers on the horizon

At the stunning ol Donyo Lodge, on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills, wildlife teems on the slopes below and Mount Kilimanjaro towers on the horizon

Enjoy a peaceful afternoon overlooking Africa's wildlife landscapes - or why not order dinner to accompany the view 

Enjoy a peaceful afternoon overlooking Africa’s wildlife landscapes – or why not order dinner to accompany the view

Sparkling fountains and beautiful gardens fill the courtyards of Hacienda de San Antonio, an elegant 19th-century home with a working ranch and coffee plantation set dramatically among volcanic peaks in the Mexican highlands

Sparkling fountains and beautiful gardens fill the courtyards of Hacienda de San Antonio, an elegant 19th-century home with a working ranch and coffee plantation set dramatically among volcanic peaks in the Mexican highlands

Enjoy a sunset from the relaxing well-maintained gardens surrounding the Hacienda de San Antonio resort

Enjoy a sunset from the relaxing well-maintained gardens surrounding the Hacienda de San Antonio resort

Sheltered by an intricate forest canopy, the screened-in cabanas of Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción reveal the sights, sounds and scents of the Amazon Rain Forest

Sheltered by an intricate forest canopy, the screened-in cabanas of Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción reveal the sights, sounds and scents of the Amazon Rain Forest

Launched in January 2015, the initial collection of 24 properties on six continents sought to build upon the National Geographic travel portfolio, which includes National Geographic Expeditions, Traveler magazine, travel books, photography courses and the @NatGeoTravel digital and photography community.

Six months after the launch, 14 more have been added to the collection – selected based upo