12 Best Museums to Walk Among Dinosaurs

If you ever had the inkling to come face to face with a dinosaur, now is your chance. Although there are not any Jurassic Park theme parks as of yet; there are plenty of museums where you can get a more realistic idea of where dinosaurs came from and how they evolved. From China to New York to the land down under these 12 awesome museums give you the chance to walk among the dinosaurs, each offering their own unique spin on exhibits and displays.

12. Jurassic Land, Istanbul, Turkey

Part education and part entertainment, this is the closest you will come to living out your Jurassic World fantasies. Your journey here starts at the museum which features bones and eggs from millions of years ago and takes visitors through the history of dinosaurs with incredible exhibits. The science center is among the favorites and informative guides take visitors through, talking about the incubation units and introducing them to the moving realistic looking dinosaurs.

There is a great digging workshop for kids and after excavating they will receive a certificate. The 4-D theatre is suitable for all ages, although if you have really young kids it may be scary. This interactive film takes visitors a ride to Dinosaur Island and be prepared as you may just want to watch it again and again. Part museum, part amusement park, this is best suited for families with kids.

Via istanbulkesfi.com

11. Iziko Museum, Cape Town, South Africa

You won’t be heading here to see dinosaurs such as the famous T-Rex or Stegosaurus; instead, you will find prehistoric beats from the Karoo Region. This museum caters to visitors who want to learn more about the less known dinosaurs and their cousins that inhabited the continent. The dinosaur hall is where you’ll find a permanent exhibition called Stone Bones of the Ancient Karoo.

Here visitors will find ancient lizards, huge crocodiles and a cast of the most complete skeleton of Heterodontosaurus found to date. Make sure to check out Kirky the dinosaur, arguably the cutest dinosaur in the history of South Africa. The Museum houses more than one and a half million specimens of scientific importance and you will want to explore more than just the dinosaur hall here.

Via fireflyafrica.blogspot.com

10. Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, Colorado

Although this museum is quite small, it delivers an awesome experience for those looking to learn more about dinosaurs. The center features an awe-inspiring display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs, and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous period. Graphics and life-restoration sculptures are used to help visitors imagine these animals in real life.

What is so cool about this museum is the fact that you can see right inside the working fossil laboratory through the glass windows. This is a great museum for kids as it is not so big they will get tired and there are plenty of activities for them such as a fossil dig box, activity stations, and two short movies. Visitors will definitely want to take advantage of the tour that is included with admission as they run about an hour long and are highly informative.

Via The Dinosaur Stop

9. Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany

Besides housing an extremely large collection of bones excavated from Tanzania, 250 tones to be exact, this museum is also home to the tallest dinosaur on display in the world. The Brachiosaurus dominates the first gallery, standing at 41 feet, 5 inches tall. Also on display at this museum visitors will find the impressive Kentrosaurus, a spiky lizard that lived in the Upper Jurassic period.

What might be the most impressive here though is the Archaeopteryx fossil, thought to be the best-known fossil in the world and provides the link between birds and dinosaurs. One of the most interesting things this museum has done is install Jurascopes that allow visitors to bring the dinosaurs to life.

Via YouTube

8. Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta

This museum is home to the permanent exhibition “Giants of the Mesozoic”, where a battle between giants is taking place. The world’s largest dinosaurs are shown here in a predator vs. prey situation and replicate the badlands of Patagonia, Argentina, where the largest dinosaurs in the world were unearthed. This exhibit features the Giganotosaurus, a dinosaur that is comparable in size to the T-Rex, as well as the Argentinosaurus, who scientists claim is the largest dinosaur ever classified.

Visitors will want to look up as more than 20 pterosaurs are shown overhead. Other notable features in this museum are the pterosaur and dinosaur tracks, remnants from an Araucaria tree, a fossilized crocodile, and additional fossil casts. It should be noted that all the fossils are cast replicas of the original specimens as the actual fossilized bones remain in Argentina, where they are considered a national treasure.

Via Expedia

7. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science, Brussels, Belgium

The most important pieces in the museum are definitely the 30 fossilized Iguanodon skeletons, discovered in 1878 and helping to make the dinosaur hall Europe’s largest museum hall completely dedicated to dinosaurs. This museum is not just fascinating to walk through though, it actually offers an incredible amount of education through the interactive exhibits including the details of the fossilization process and dinosaur digs.

Parents will love watching the eight interviews with paleontology experts around the world while kids will have a blast in the paleo lab where they can touch and explore real fossils, along with putting together a life-sized stegosaurus and walking in dinosaur footprints. This museum does an excellent job linking dinosaurs to modern-day animals, making it even easier to understand how evolution works. A win-win in our books.

Via Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

6. Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, Alberta, Canada

This museum holds more than 130,000 fossils and is the only one of its kind dedicated to the science of paleontology. This museum focuses on education, creativity, and fun while opening visitor’s eyes to the fascinating world of dinosaurs. Visitors will want to make sure to head over to the Albertosaurus exhibit where this close relative of the T-Rex is displayed moving across a dry river channel.

This exhibit was the result of scientific evidence collected from a mass grave. The Dinosaur Hall features one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains that have been reconstructed and a favorite of many visitors. A rotating fossil display will enthuse visitors who are looking to see more of the tens of thousands of fossils this museum has. Make sure to make your way over to the Cretaceous Garden and experience what that environment was like and see Canada’s largest collection of prehistoric plant relatives.

Via fortwoplz.com

5. Zigong Dinosaur Museum, Zigong, China

This museum attracts over seven million visitors a year, in part because of its awesome location atop a fossil site. The excellent reputation it holds comes from the life-like exhibits, unique architecture, magnificent burial sites and incredible environment. Visitors here will experience two floors of displays and exhibits. The first floor features the favorite of many, Dinosaur world where 18 dinosaurs of different species and size are displayed.

The first floor is also home to the burial site, the largest burial site for watching spot-on protected dinosaur fossils so far known in the world. The second floor features a treasure hall, a display of all the flora and fauna from that period and displays on the evolution of dinosaurs and species. This huge roc cave-like museum was the first museum in Asia dedicated to dinosaurs and will surely not disappoint visitors.

Via CNN.com

4. American Museum of Natural History, New York

This museum has one of the greatest dinosaur fossil collections in the world and houses two famed dinosaur halls in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. The Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs is where visitors will find one of the major groups of dinosaurs, the ones with grasping hands. It is here where you will find the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex and the Apatosaurus. Along with the fossils, there is a slew of video footage and photography exploring the history of paleontology at the museum.

The Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs features the group of dinosaurs defined by a backward-pointing extension of the pubis bone and include such dinosaurs as the Stegosaurus and Triceratops. The museum has actually developed a dinosaur map to go along with the exhibit and visitors can use the app to help plan their way through the exhibits. For kids ages 6-13 there is a special overnight experience that takes place in the dinosaur hall where they can explore the exhibits by flashlight.

Via Citi Bike

3. National Dinosaur Museum, Canberra, Australia

Home to the largest permanent display of dinosaur and prehistoric fossils in Australia, this is where you should head if you want to know anything about dinosaurs down under. The museum actually follows the evolution of life and just happens to put the emphasis on dinosaurs. The favorite part of this museum has to be the dinosaur garden, with its imposing dinosaur sculptures made out of fiberglass and animatronics.

The museum has only been in operation since 1993 and with 23 complete skeletons, and over 300 displays of individual fossils, it is growing and expanding its collection as each year passes. Special experiences here include guided tours, children’s learning events, and fossil digs.

Via ABC

2. Wyoming Dinosaur Center, Thermopolis, Wyoming

It is one of the few dinosaur museums that have its own excavation site within driving distance and the standout attraction is the 106 foot Supersaurus on display, although their claim to fame here is the Archaeopteryx.  Only 12 specimens exist in the world and “The Thermopolis Specimen” is second only to the “Berlin” specimen in terms of completeness, including a well-preserved skull.

Also, there are over 30 mounted dinosaurs including two Velociraptors and a 41 foot T-Rex that is attacking a Triceratops horridus. Walking through the museums means following the time displays which go from earliest life forms to dinosaurs and finally mammals. The dig site can be toured in nice weather and it’s a rare opportunity for visitors to see dinosaur bones in the ground and the actual excavation of them. The real draw here is the chance to speak with actual paleontologists or to join one of the “dig days”.

Via Pitchengine

1. The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

It has the most famous of all museum dinosaurs, Sue, the largest, most complete, and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in the world. The original skull weighs over 600 lbs and flashes 58 teeth and she is over 42 feet long and 67 million years old. That is just the beginning of this awesome dinosaur experience here at the Field Museum of Natural History.

The permanent Evolving Planet exhibition takes visitors on a journey through an expanded dinosaur hall where you learn about every major group of dinosaurs, where they lived, and what scientists have learned from Sue. Kids will love the fossil play lab located in the dinosaur hall. Don’t miss the 3-D movie where visitors are taken on a ride through Sue’s life, from hatchling to a 7-ton ferocious beast.

Via Chicago Tribune

15 Things to See and Do in South Africa

South Africa is an extremely diverse country that offers so many unique experiences for travelers. Whether you’re planning a family vacation or a solo backpacking trip, South Africa has a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy. You’ll find heart-racing adventures for the thrill seeking enthusiasts, beautiful hikes up it’s mountainous terrain, historical monuments that have shaped history, and so much more. Coming from a tumultuous past, this country has built itself up into one of the best travel destinations with thriving cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg along with many quaint towns and villages in between. Here are 15 of our favorite things to see and do in South Africa.

15. Spend a Night at the Afrovibe Adventure Lodge

Located in the town of Sedgefield on Myoli Beach, the Afrovibe Adventure Lodge is a backpackers paradise. This hostel sits on 14 km of untouched beach, far away from any large cities, but is easily accessible by Baz Bus, a bus service in South Africa. You don’t need to venture far to have fun, this hostel offers plenty of activities like surfing, wakeboarding, kite surfing, paragliding and paddle boarding just to name a few. But, if you’d like to go off-site for some more exhilarating fun there is an on-site Adventure Center that will hook guests up with excursions like shark cage diving and bungee jumping. Guests can stay in four star rated rooms with private bathrooms and spacious balconies. If you are looking for some of the more refined comforts of home, stay at the nearby beach house which has free WiFi, a fireplace, kitchen, outdoor terrace, wooden deck with ocean views, a braai (barbecue) and indoor lounge areas. Need I say more? In the evening, wander downstairs to the Pilipili Beach Bar and restaurant to grab some grub. As the night continues, go outside grab a drink from the tiki bar and sit by the fire. Don’t forget to walk out onto the beach and view the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen!

Photo by: Afrovibe Adventure Lodge
Photo by: Afrovibe Adventure Lodge

14. Take a Tour of Robben Island

Robben Island is one of the most monumental places in South Africa as it played a significant role in the country’s history. This island is now a historical hub as it was home to Nelson Mandela for 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment. Now a World Heritage Site, Robben Island was feared by many because of its haunted past. It has been a hospital, prison, mental institution, leper colony and even a military base. Located 9 km from the shore in Table Bay, Robben Island is a short ferry ride away from Cape Town’s waterfront. Ferries to the island depart daily on each hour from 9 am to 3 pm. Upon arrival, visitors will be given a tour of the island by former political prisoners who can provide personal accounts of their experience on Robben Island. The tours will include a visit to maximum security, Mandela’s former cell (which has been virtually untouched since he was imprisoned there), a trip to the lime quarry where Mandela and his fellow inmates participated in hard labor, the Leper’s Graveyard and the house where Robert Sobukwe was left in solitary confinement for nine years. This island’s treacherous past is sure to leave an imprint on all of its visitors and is a must-see for all of South Africa’s tourists.

Robben Island

13. Go to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg

The Apartheid Museum is another historical monument to visit while in South Africa. Located near downtown Johannesburg, it’s one of the most popular attractions in this big city. The experience is both eerie and inspiring. Taking guests down South Africa’s dark path of racial discrimination, you will learn what it was like living during the rise and fall of the Apartheid. The entire tour is entertaining as the museum is full of interactive displays like text, film, audio and live encounters. Even the building itself is an exhibit as it was designed to resemble the prison conditions of Robben Island. The first interactive exhibit begins before even entering the museum. Visitors are ushered into two different lines depending on what their ticket says, one entrance is labelled ‘white’ and the other ‘non white’ to give people the idea of what it was like to live in a racially segregated society. Venturing through the museum is a dramatic and emotional journey with areas that are not recommended for small children. But if you’ve got little ones, the day doesn’t have to be all about education and history, located beside Gold Reef City, a popular theme and amusement park that will thrill the kids, so stop by before or after visiting the museum.

Apartheid Museum Johannesburg
Gil.K / Shutterstock.com

12. Spend a night on Long Street in Cape Town

Long Street is the party capital of Cape Town, especially since it is conveniently located in the central hub of downtown. The entire street has a buzzing atmosphere with bustling streets and tons of culture and fresh authenticity oozing from the various shops, restaurants and bars. With a constant buzz of energy, Long Street is a great place to visit day or night, it never seems to slow down. A personal favorite among tourists is Mama Africa’s which is a common tourist spot offering some great authentic food, drinks and friendly service. As a central destination for tourists and locals, there are plenty of places to stay while on Long Street. Check out the Long Street Boutique hotel which is centrally located with easy access to all the major nearby attractions and activities.

Lspencer / Shutterstock.com
Lspencer / Shutterstock.com

11. Take a Hike up Table Mountain or Lion’s Head Mountain

Table Mountain is by far the most well known hike as it is South Africa’s most iconic landmark. This mountain is so popular, there are 350 trails to choose from- each varying in skill level so you can choose the route that works for you. The more strenuous hikes can take up to three hours and you’ll want to spend some time at the top as there is a restaurant, gift shop and spectacular lookout points that provide some great photo opportunities, so plan to spend a good amount of time here. After an exhausting climb, catch a ride to the bottom on the cable car and you’ll receive a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the mountain you’ve just conquered. Lions Head is the second most popular hike among tourists and locals.  At an intermediate level with some steep climbs, this hike is not suitable for the unfit, elderly or very young. There are areas of this hike where you must use a chain link fence to keep balance and metal ladder grips for climbing. The reward for finishing is great, because once you’ve reached the top of this hike, you’ll feast your eyes on the scenic backdrop of Cape Town’s city bowl while scanning the other side with a view of Table Bay and the Atlantic shoreline. The trek takes about an hour and half  to hike one way (depending on breaks, of course), so allow for three hours to finish the hike in its entirety.

Table Mountain

10. Check out the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town

The Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront is an area of Cape Town that is a must-see and hard to avoid as it contains lots of shopping, dining and entertainment venues. The scenery is beautiful with Table Mountain towering in the background of the old working harbor with large ships and tugboats constantly moving in and out of the bay creating an oddly pleasing contrast with the modern V&A district. With lots to do there’s two large cinema complexes within the shopping center, Two Ocean’s Aquarium which is a world class aquarium and two museums. The Alfred mall and clock tower are where you’ll find most of the best shops. If you’re looking to spend more of your time outdoors, take a walk along the beachfront boardwalk or hop on one of the numerous boat rides that run regularly out of the harbor. There’s a giant Ferris wheel known as the Cape Wheel that gives riders a 360 degree view of the city’s landscape. Take a guided historical walking tour of the waterfront and you’ll be told stories from an era when the Dutch, British, Flemish and Malay slaves and sailors had to blend together to create South Africa’s working population. Don’t forget to check if the outdoor amphitheater is hosting any music, dance or theater performances because show’s run constantly throughout the year.

Diriye Amey / Shutterstock.com
Diriye Amey / Shutterstock.com

9. Go on a Safari Game Drive

South Africa is home to what is known as the ‘big 5’ which includes leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino. The most popular and well-renowned park to visit is Kruger National Park which ranks as the best in all of Africa. Kruger is also the largest game reserve in South Africa, the park totals nearly two million hectares of land and is larger than the entire country of Israel! A natural sanctuary where animals roam freely this is an experience unlike any zoo. This park is so large that many people spend more than one day here – the accommodations range from camping in overnight hides to luxury lodging. Kruger offers the chance to do a self drive through the park and view the wildlife or participate in a guided tour with park operators. Choose from game drives, bush walks, wilderness trails and foot safaris – there’s a little something for everyone. There are rest camps, picnic areas and waterholes that offer prime opportunity to view animals who wander out of the bush for a refreshing water break. Because of the vastness of this park, it is divided into regions so visitors can decide what kind of experience they would like to have. The northern areas of this park border on Zimbabwe and Zambia so be sure to do your due diligence and check to see if you will need malaria pills to enjoy a stay at this park.

Kruger National Park

8. Take a Drive Down Chapman’s Peak Drive

Chapman’s Peak Drive, or “chappies” as known to the locals, is a winding highway that travels down the Atlantic coast along the Southwestern tip of South Africa between Noordhoek and Hout Bay. It is a 9 km route with 114 curves and 593 m of rocky coastline and has been deemed by many as ‘the best marine drive in the world.’ This trek gives 180 degree views of incredible scenery, with towering mountains that contrast beautifully with the sheer drops to the sea. Whether you’re traveling alone or with the family, there’s plenty of areas to stop and have a picnic. There are three major picnic stops and 45 pit stops along the way with small tables to sit and relax on the Hout Bay side. Don’t have a car? Don’t fret! You can explore this route on foot by hiking one of the numerous trails on the Silvermine Nature Reserve and Cape Peninsula National Park. It is worth setting aside half a day or even a full day. If you are traveling during the late winter (South African winter) you’ll even spot some southern right whales as they migrate along the coast! Be sure to make a pit stop in one of the small country villages along the way for a souvenir from the local shops or refreshing beverage at a local restaurant.  

Chapman’s Peak Drive

7. Go Whale Watching in the Western Cape

South Africa is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching with frequent visits from annual migrations of southern right and humpback whales, plus pods of dolphins all year round. Every June, the southern right whales migrate from Antarctica to the warmer South African climate. The best time for whale watching is from June to November along the Cape South Coast. Peak calving season is in July and August, but the whales can be seen into September and October. Now – where’s the best place to spot these majestic creatures? The best areas are from Doringbaai to the coast of St. Lucia. If you’re in Cape Town, you can often see them from the road right along the False Bay coast. Hermanus in Walker Bay offers the best whale viewing from land in the entire world! Follow the path along the cliffs and you can get within 20 meters of the traveling whales.

Southern Right Whale

6. Go On a Township Tour

Township tours have been debated, scrutinized and praised by the media and fellow traveler enthusiasts. Despite all of this, townships in South Africa are an important part of the country’s history and act as a constant reminder of Apartheid in the 90’s. These townships were built as a way to segregate the population, but now despite widespread poverty, some are now thriving communities. There are many tour companies that operate walking tours (and driving tours, but walking tours are much more respectful). It is important to note that you do not attempt to venture into these townships unguided as it can be dangerous for tourists to explore alone, so go with a guide. Most of these tour companies provide employment to individuals living in the townships as tour guides, so you’ll definitely get the most authentic experience! These tours are inexpensive and most put profits back into the communities. It’s a great learning experience and chance to really experience the country. Don’t make the common mistake of being a disconnected tourist!

Diriye Amey / Shutterstock.com
Diriye Amey / Shutterstock.com

5. Take a Wine Tour in Stellenbosch

The small picturesque town of Stellenbosch is about an hour from Cape Town, tucked away between secluded mountains in the Jan Kershoek River Valley. This small university town is home to the oldest wine route and most developed wine estates in the county, thus why it is the best place to experience South African wine! The scenery here alone is worth the trip, and the opportunity to soak in the views while sipping wine is just an added benefit. You can enjoy thorough educational tours learning about the entire wine-making process, or simply go visit these beautiful wineries for the elegant experience. Before heading out on a wine tour, be sure to explore the town of Stellenbosch and all is unique sidewalk cafes and restaurants!

Stellenbosch

4. Do the World’s Highest Commercial Bungee Jump

Are you an adrenaline junkie? If so, this is the perfect adventure for you! On the border of the Eastern and Western Cape along the Garden Route is where the company Face Adrenalin has been operating it’s bungee on South Africa’s largest bridge over the Bloukrans River since 1997. Home to what was once the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, it’s technically now the third, but when you’re jumping head first off a bridge it’s all the same thing, right? For bragging rights it’s still recognized around the world as ‘the world’s highest bungee from a bridge.’ Those brave enough to take this leap are suited up in a full body harness with ankle connections and dropped 216 meters toward the river below. Don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you if you chicken out!

Bloukrans River

3. Swim with Penguins at Boulder’s Beach

Located in Simon’s Town about a 35 minute drive from Cape Town is a place known as Boulder’s Beach, the home to a breeding colony of over 2000 endangered African penguins. The unique boulders which are spread along the sandy shores are up to 540 million years old. As part of a marine protected area, be prepared to pay an entrance free in order to enter this park and view the penguins. The large boulders keep the beach safe and sheltered so it’s the perfect beach spot to bring the little ones. There’s plenty of hidden spots to explore! Then, take a walk down the wooden boardwalk that winds through the park along the breeding and nesting grounds of the penguins. With visitors flocking in and out each day, the penguins here are definitely not afraid of people, but be respectful and don’t try to pick up the penguins or touch them because they can and will bite! The penguins will swim in the water with you and wander along the beach, it’s quite unbelievable to get so close, it’s sure to be a day your kids won’t forget.

Boulder Beach

2. Go Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai

Shark cage diving is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Africa. This activity is not for the faint of heart! This thrill seeking activity allows people to view the underwater world in the most unique way, a true up close and personal experience! The world’s largest predatory fish is commonly spotted off the shores of South Africa. There are many tour companies operating out of Gansbaai  – so there are no shortage of choices! You will have the option of viewing sharks from above water (for those who are a little bit nervous!) and of course, for the unique experience of coming face to face underwater in the cage. There’s no need for scuba gear or a diving license because the cage has an open top for breathing, secured to the boat never going more than one meter below the surface. The typical tour takes about three to five hours depending on weather conditions, sea conditions and shark behavior. The best time to book an excursion is between the months of June and September when trips to the open water average sightings of four to five different sharks a day! Sign me up!

Shark Diving in South Africa

1. Travel the Garden Route

The Garden Route stretches along the south-eastern coast of South Africa, from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to Storms River Village on the Eastern Cape border down the N2 coastal highway. This road trip route is the most popular tourist attraction in South Africa and is completely unique to the country. An iconic feature of South Africa with no shortage of sights to see, the best sights are found in secrets spots off the side roads, perfect for a quick stop and photo-op. The towns along the way have a rich history of early inhabitants and tales of elephants crossing the Outeniqua Mountains from the Oudtshoorn coast for many centuries. The name was coined from its rich ecological system, vegetation and large floral kingdoms, secluded bays, lakes and lagoons. The road follows along the ocean shores, through luscious green mountains and quaint little towns untouched by the developed world. Keep your eyes peeled at all times and you’ll likely catch a glimpse of some humpback whales, bottlenose and common dolphins, even killer whales who frequently visit the shore, especially in Plettenberg Bay.

Bloukrans Bridge South Africa Garden Route

The 12 Best Scenic Tram Rides in the World

Some may call them gondolas, others may call them cable cars or aerial tramways but we call them trams. By tram, we aren’t talking about the light-rail or streetcars that run through most of Europe; we are talking about the cable-suspended cabins that seamlessly float through the air. All over the world these trams offer incredible sweeping views of oceans, mountains and cities. From trams that offer free public transportation to those with glass floors, here are 12 of the best tram rides in the world.

12. Roosevelt Island Tram – New York City, United States

It is one of America’s only aerial tramways used for urban mass transit and that fact alone makes this tram pretty incredible. It serves more than two million commuters and tourists a year connecting Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Each cabin can hold up to 110 people and the trip only takes three minutes. The draw for tourists seems to be the sweeping views of Manhattan and the East River it provides from 230 feet in the air. This Tram has been featured in many television shows and movies and continues to be one of the most loved trams in the world.

Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com
Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

11. Gibraltar Cable Car – Gibraltar, Spain

Many people have never heard of Gibraltar mainly because it is a very small British Overseas Territory that is located on the south coast of Spain, often referred to as “The Rock.” One of the highlights here is a trip on the cable car. It has been around since 1966 and not summiting the top via cable car would be like going to the Grand Canyon and not looking over the rim. The ride to the top only takes six minutes, but visitors are provided with an audio guide that talks about the history of the area. Sweeping views over the strait and into Northern Africa accompany riders. At the top visitors will be privy to the view of two continents, three countries and the meeting point of two great bodies of water. There is only one hitch to being at the top of this rock and that is the thieving resident apes that are waiting for you. Make sure to leave all food below and hold onto your camera as these apes love to steal right from your hand.

Gibraltar Cable Car , Spain

10. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway – Cape Town, South Africa

It is one of three trams in the world where each circular cabin rotates a full 360 degrees during the ascent to Table Mountain. The five minute trip up provides spectacular views and has been enjoyed by over 20 million people. A quick fact about this cable car, it was actually one of Cape Town’s first tourist attractions and opened in 1929. On the ride up and at the summit visitors are granted 360-degree views of Cape Town, Table Bay, nearby mountains and the rest of Table Mountain National Park. Also at the top is where you will find three hiking trails, a guided walk, self-serve restaurant and souvenir shop. One of the more popular times to ride this tram is sunset as there seems to be no better place in Africa to watch the sun sink away than on top of Table Mountain. If you are feeling really adventurous, skip the cable car ride back down and rappel down the cliff face.

Table Mountain, South Africa

9. Sandia Peak Tramway – Albuquerque, United States

It is hailed as North America’s longest aerial tram and has the world’s third longest single span. That alone is enough for us to want to get to Albuquerque and ride it today. At 2.7 miles long the tram provides sweeping views of the steep rocky terrain. The trip starts off in the suburbs of northeast Albuquerque and spends 15 minutes taking visitors up to the high desert peaks of the Sandia Mountains. Riders should expect an elevation change of about 4,000 feet and a temperature drop of 30 degrees. It works on a double system where one tram ascends and the other descends, each being able to hold up to 50 people. When this tram was first constructed in 1966 the engineering company touted it as being one of the most difficult tramway construction projects because of the terrain. You can just imagine what those views look like from 3,000 feet in the air.

Sandia Peak Tramway

8. Telluride Gondola – Colorado, United States

This ultra laid back ski town offers an equally cool form of public transportation. It offers a 13 minute tram ride between Telluride and Mountain Village. What makes this tram even better, riders can ride it as many times as they want for free. Since it opened in 1996, this tram has always been free and motors along leisurely at 11 mph operating from 7 am-midnight. This tram offers incredible 360 degree views of the San Juan Mountains and locals refer to it as the “best commute in the country.” Everyone is welcome on this tram including your four legged furry friends as long as they are on a leash. Equipped with ski and snowboard racks in the winter, bike racks in the summer and blankets all year round. This tram has truly thought of everything to make your ride unforgettable.

Telluride Gondola, Colorado

7. Skyline Gondola – Queenstown, New Zealand

The views from this gondola, the steepest of its kind in all of the Southern Hemisphere, are epically amazing. This tram takes visitors 450 meters above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak. You can even take your bike up on it. But what awaits visitors at the top is what makes this tram one of the best. Besides the awesome viewing platforms and outdoor terraces, there is a plethora of activities that await visitors on this peak. For the adrenaline seekers, paragliding, bungee jumping and luge racing are all offered at the top. For those not quite daring enough, there are plenty of mountain biking trails, stargazing tours and scenic dining options as well. The 222- degree view of the Remarkable Range, the town center looking like a Lego city and the plethora of activities at the top make this one amazing tram ride.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

6. Dubrovnik Cable Car -Dubrovnik, Croatia

Soar up above Dubrovnik’s orange-roofed walled Old Town on this amazing cable car that goes 1,329 feet up into the air. The original cable car that was opened in 1969 was actually bombed out during the 1991 Balkan conflicts, but has since been replaced and re-opened in 2010. It only takes four minutes to do the entire run, but it remains one of the best ways for visitors to take in the Dalmatian coast anytime of the day. It is possible to buy a one-way ticket up and that often gives visitors the best of both worlds, as the walk down is just as scenic and only takes a mere 30 minutes. We suggest aiming for sunset as the sky lights up with color when the sun sinks beneath the Adriatic Sea over this twinkling city with its snaky roads and rocky islands.

Dubrovnik Cable Car

5. Hakone Ropeway – Hakone, Japan

With over two million riders a year, the Hakone Ropeway is hailed as the world’s busiest gondola, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This 30 minute journey takes visitors 2.5 miles from Togendai Station on the shores of Lake Ashi to Sounzan Station in Hakone, an area known for its hot spring baths. It makes two stops along the way and promises views of the snowcapped Mount Fuji, the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Ashi, the volcanic fumes of Owakudani and forested mountains. The trams run at one minute intervals to the tourist busy town of Hakone, where locals tell visitors to eat a hardboiled egg that has been soaked in the sulfur rich water in order to add seven more years to their life. We aren’t too sure about the jet black egg, but we are sure about making this tram ride a must do while in Japan.

Hakone Ropeway, Japan

4. Langkawi SkyCab – Langkawi, Malaysia

The SkyCab is located at the oldest part of South East Asia and whisks visitors over jungle and rock that is 550 million years old. There are actually three parts of this tram ride, first the base station located at the foot of the Machincang Mountain where visitors catch the tram. The second station is in the middle at an elevation of 650 m above sea level that provides panoramic views of the main island. There are viewing platforms available and here is the chance to get up close to the unique flora. The top station sits at an elevation of 708 m above sea level and features two viewing platforms that offer dramatic views. The entire journey takes about 15 minutes if you choose not to get off and takes you to the island’s second highest peak, Mount Machincang.

Langkawi SkyCab

3. Ngong Ping 360 – Hong Kong, China

It is hailed as being one of the world’s best cable car experiences and with its choice of cabins, incredible views and cultural village, it is easy to see why. The journey is 3.5 miles one way and takes visitors between Tung Chung Town and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. To start off the gondola makes a hard turn to begin its journey over the stunning Tung Chung Bay and into the lush green mountains of Lantau Island. The views include the South China Sea, the Tian Tan Buddha Statue, the International Airport and the flora and fauna of North Lantau Country Park. For those visitors wanting to splurge, book the incredible crystal cabins that are outfitted with a glass floor, giving you a bird’s eye views over all the sights. You will end up at the touristy Ngong Ping Village where you can visit the monastery, see the giant Buddha statue and explore the museum of cable car replicas from around the world.

Ngong Ping 360

2. Stanserhorn CabriO – Stans, Switzerland

It is the world’s first double-decker, open-top tram in the world and for those of you who are afraid of heights – you may want to skip it. Opened in June 2012, this cable car zips visitors 3,737 feet to the top of Stanserhorn. The lower level of the car with floor to wall windows fits a comfortable 60 people. Taking the staircase to the top is most recommended where an additional 30 people can fit. Fresh mountain area, 360 degree panoramic views and the wind in your hair is what you can expect up here. It takes just six and a half minutes to reach the top and before you know it the rolling green hills, towering mountains and bright blue waters will be below you. It may be the first open-air tram but we doubt it will be the last.

Photo by: Stanserhorn-Bahn
Photo by: Stanserhorn-Bahn

1. Grenoble-Bastille Cable Car – Grenoble, France

Since 1934, a steel cable has connected Grenoble to the summit all year round, in the world’s first urban route that opened with 12-sided cabins painted blue. Nowadays the cable cars look a little different in their ultra modern bubble shape with floor to ceiling windows in a cool silver and red color. Made of plexi-glass and steel these cabins fit six people each and are responsible for taking visitors from the banks of the Isere River to the ancient Bastille fortifications, in just four minutes. Safety is their number one priority here and in January these cable cars shut down for 20 days in order to perform drills, checks and maintenance. On a clear day, not only will visitors have sweeping views of the city of Grenoble but can also see the gorgeous Alps including the iconic Mont Blanc.

Grenoble-Bastille Cable Car

The Cheapest Cities for Expats to Live Around the World

With so many reports and studies on the world’s most expensive or most livable cities, we have a refreshing new take on the subject with the least expensive places to live in, housing costs and all. This list is intriguing for adventure travelers and expatriates looking for a nice place to spend a year abroad or to settle down in one of the cheapest places to retire. Some places are affordable and nice through circumstances beyond their control, others are inexpensive because they are lousy places to change planes on a layover, let alone spend time living in. But some of the following are diamonds in the rough that you may not have heard of and you’ll definitely want to find out more about. So here is the list of the cheapest cities for expats to live around in the world.

10. Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi is an obscure place off the beaten path, but not for much longer. It’s said to be the next must-see wine destination. The winemaking tradition here goes back about 4000 years. Strikingly set on cliffs, bisected by a river, the architecture and cuisine of Tbilisi is a crazy, critically-acclaimed fusion of East, West, Russian and Near Eastern. The old city is a beautiful rabbit-warren of narrow streets and alleys. Instead of Starbucks coffee shops, there are wine bars on every corner. The beautiful wine route through stunning scenery is largely unknown – for now. A little apartment just outside town is barely $200 a month. It is a shockingly poor country. Sixty per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. There are signs of better days ahead but still, Tbilisi will remain a memorable place to visit or live at any price.

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

9. Managua, Nicaragua

Managua is one of those old, down at the heels, completely charming Latin American cities that resembles that past as if time simply stopped moving back in 1962. According to Numbeo, three bedroom apartments downtown can still be had for $466 a month. Or as the legendary Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians sang in a 1946 recording, “Managua, Nicaragua is a beautiful town/You buy a hacienda for a few pesos down”. Actually real estate prices are on the rise as it becomes more popular as a retirement destination and a place for expats to chill for a spell. Always warm, a cultural and financial center and a university town, it has cheap fine-dining, crazy markets, insane traffic, occasional garbage collection, and proximity to some impressive natural beauty. Guidebooks warn about wearing flashy jewelry at night, but the same be said of Cleveland.

Managua, Nicaragua

8. Cape Town, South Africa

A heavenly alignment of the economic planets for expats as the South African Rand is hitting fifteen year lows with no letup in sight, making one of the world’s great destinations ridiculously affordable. It’s no accident that more people visit Cape Town than the Great Pyramids. The one-bedroom downtown apartment is $600 and a meal at McDonald’s is $3.80. That’s not to suggest you should eat there all the time or even at all, but it is an uncannily accurate reflection of the cost of living. Yes there is crime and the tragic sadness of the Apartheid townships. But they should remind you how far this country has come and that you are truly blessed to see Table Top Mountain as you leave your flat every day. It’s also a great treat to be able to make a quick drive to some of the world’s best vineyards and feel the presence of greatness in Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island.

Cape Town South Africa

7. Minsk, Belarus

Poor Minsk needs a little travel lovin’. Its battered economy sinks deeper every day with that of its biggest customer while Russia disintegrates with the effects of sanctions for invading Ukraine and the disappearing price of oil. But even 40 years ago, in his 1975 comedy Love and Death, Woody Allen uses Minsk as the setting for The Village Idiots Convention. It does have its cosmopolitan side but still, it is a virtual police state run by Alexander Lukashenko, a poor man’s Vladimir Putin whose views seem locked in a Cold War era time warp. They make great beer but seriously, when one of the 10 Best Tourist Attractions is the one time home of convicted Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, it makes you think twice about hanging here for long.

Minsk, Belarus
Grisha Bruev / Shutterstock.com

6. Banjul, Gambia

Banjul is a little jewel on an island in the Gambia River in The Gambia of which it is the capital. It has a wonderful market, a charming if decrepit old town and only 43,000 people. Stunning beaches. The languorous pace of life that agrarian societies have. Lonely Planet calls it “urban Africa at its best”.  Its main economic staple is the growing and processing of peanuts, which is apt since that’s what its currency is worth. The annual per capita Gross Domestic Product is $1700 USD which puts it down there with the likes of North Korea and South Sudan. It can be a nice place, maybe even idyllic, but sometimes abject poverty and the persecution of innocent minorities can take the shine away. A small cost can sometimes come at a high price which might be why the expat community is on the small side here.

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

5. Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje is a cheap place to live looking at all the comparisons. A pound of chicken is $2.31 and the three-bedroom downtown apartment is $422. Walmart can’t match these prices. Plus it’s just been given a modern facelift though it still has an ancient fortress dating back to the fifth century, a fantastic old bazaar second only to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and breathtaking mountain lakes and canyons nearby. Lonely Planet says it has some of the most affordable dining in Europe. It is two hours and 47 minutes by car to the renowned beaches and nightlife of Thessaloniki in Greece. It does have an unemployment rate of 27%, but this is a travel site you won’t find advertised online. Talk about a hidden gem!

Andrei Tudoran / Shutterstock.com
Andrei Tudoran / Shutterstock.com

4. Tunis, Tunisia

Recent terrorist attacks, responsibility for which has been claimed by Islamic State militants will wreak havoc on the country’s already fragile economy. At least half a million jobs depend on a tourism sector worth over $20 billion and that should be in past tense. The wonderful beaches and the sublime combination of Arab, French and African influences will be cheaper to experience but expats, especially Westerners, will need an amazing reason to settle there. The U.S. State Department advises “U.S. citizens in Tunisia maintain a high level of vigilance, as terrorism remains a significant concern”. It doesn’t really sound like now is the time or place to look for bargains here, now does it?

Tunis, Tunisia

3. Karachi, Pakistan

It sounds fantastic with a wealthy industrial, commercial, artistic and financial hub, one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Called the City of Lights for its nonstop nightlife. Close to fabulous beaches on the Arabian Sea. Less than $400 for a three bedroom place in the city. What’s not to like? You can’t help but wonder why it is so cheap. Unfortunately, it is not ideal in terms of deadly heat waves, unsustainable power accessibility and high rates of crime. So, if you can look past these headlines, it’s one of the cheapest places to travel in the world.

Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com
Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com

2. Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek is the capital of Namibia and largest city in the country. It has a westernized appearance and wouldn’t look out of place anywhere in North America. Well, except for north of the Tree Line. It is clean, relatively safe, with a stable and occasionally corrupt government it is magically placed in one of the world’s most biodiverse and scenic nations. Numbeo.com says a one-bedroom apartment is $491 a month. Most expats can find work in the booming tourism business or the uranium and diamond mining companies. Main courses at the best African cuisine restaurants start at $8. Talk about a cheap date! Those who have traveled here rave about the ecotourism and safaris throughout gorgeous orange deserts. The New York Times put it at #6 of world’s destinations to see. Decent wine at $4.83? What are we waiting for -grab a wine glass and go!

Grobler du Preez / Shutterstock.com
Grobler du Preez / Shutterstock.com

1. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

At 63 Kyrgyzstani Som to the dollar, a gin and tonic sets you back about a buck and a half while dinner will be five to 10 dollars. If you must, Marlboro’s are 86 cents a pack. According to the Expatistan cost of living chart, the rent for a two bedroom apartment in the expensive part of town is $763 USD. That’s about one-ninth the cost for a similar place in the survey’s most expensive city, Luanda, Angola. Many of the expats who travel here work the gold mines or teach English to students. It’s not the safest place to travel, but when visiting here be sure to take a tour along the legendary Silk Road.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

10 Awesome Aquariums Where You Can Spend the Night With Sharks

Imagine drifting off to sleep while a shark silently stalks above you, or a school of colorful fish dart in and out of coral, all while you are safely tucked into your warm sleeping bag, next to your kids, or a loved one. Aquariums around the world are taking experiences to a new level by offering a variety of overnight experiences. These sleepovers allow guests to explore the aquarium after dark, learn more about the marine life that live there and have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and participate in feedings and cleanings. From Toronto to California to South Africa, here are 10 awesome overnight aquarium experiences.

10. Vancouver Aquarium -Vancouver, BC

Spending a night at the Vancouver Aquarium is like no other in Canada, and offers visitors an exciting opportunity to go behind the scenes in their marine lab. Visitors on one of these sleepovers will have the opportunity to touch local invertebrates including live sea stars, anemones, sea urchins and more. Visitors can choose from different sleepovers including a family night where participants embark in a variety of activities, presentations and tours. They also offer an incredible Valentine’s night sleepover for the romantic couple that wants to create unique memories. A three course plated dinner, a presentation on the sex lives of sea animals and a behind the scenes tour is included with this sleepover. Fall asleep in the Arctic Canada underwater gallery to sights of the majestic beluga whales swimming right in front of your eyes in this awesome Canadian aquarium sleepover experience.

Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com
Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com

9. Georgia Aquarium -Atlanta, GA

Sleeping at the aquarium doesn’t have to be just for kids as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta offers adults-only nights, along with a variety of family themed nights. The family nights are recommended for ages seven and up and include a variety of activities and behind-the-scenes tours, specifically focusing on whales and sharks. The adults-only sleepovers here are hugely popular and for good reason. The behind-the-scenes tours, gallery tours, activities and events that the aquarium plans for adults gives you a once in a lifetime chance to get up close and personal with the marine animals. Dinner, snacks, a 4-D movie and more are all included here. Make sure to spend the next day talking in the dolphin show and exploring the aquarium during daytime hours.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

8. Maui Ocean Center -Wailuku, HI

The aquarium here is an exciting place to be after dark as the creatures that normally hide during daylight hours make their debut, while others seem to disappear right before your eyes. The sleep with the shark sleepover at the Maui Ocean Center offers a total hands-on experience complete with fun activities, education, crafts and a movie. Watch as the sharks behavior changes from day to night, learn more about the marine animals and even have the chance to help an ocean naturalist feed the turtles and rays. This sleepover program is offered to anyone ages six to 13, accompanied by an adult. When you are all tuckered out from a fun-filled night, curl up in your sleeping bag and watch the Open Ocean show of the mesmerizing Sea Jelly exhibit. This program is one of the most hands-on sleepovers and promises to delight visitors of all ages.

Photo by: Joe Boyd via Flickr
Photo by: Joe Boyd via Flickr

7. Two Oceans Aquarium -Cape Town, South Africa

Not anyone can spend the night at this aquarium, but if you happen to be a member, part of an educational group or want to hold your child’s birthday party here; you will have access to a pretty awesome sleepover aquarium experience. The aquarium closes to the public at 6 pm, which allows sleepover guests plenty of time to explore the aquarium after dark. A kid-friendly dinner, a ton of planned activities, movies and more await guests here. Exhibits include the penguin exhibit, Indian Ocean gallery, touch pools, Atlantic Ocean gallery, predator exhibit and more. Birthday parties are perhaps the most popular sleepovers here, an experience your child will never forget. They happen to be best for children aged eight to 12.

InnaFelker / Shutterstock.com
InnaFelker / Shutterstock.com

6. Aquarium of the Pacific -Long Beach, CA

Grab your sleeping bag and prepare for the ultimate family adventure at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California. This is one of the best sleepovers if you are looking for the most hands-on activities. Sleepover guests will embark on an awesome scavenger hunt with the whole family as well as have a pizza dinner, guaranteed to make every kid happy. Next up guests are encouraged to pet marine animals such as sharks, sea stars and sea jellies. You can even help participate in a fish feeding. A light snack before bed and the chance to paint your own souvenir t-shirt is also included with this experience. These themed overnights do fill up quickly and are normally offered in the summer, winter and Halloween; all complete with a different theme. These sleepovers also happen to be one of the most budget friendly on our list.

Photo by: Tracie Hall via Flickr
Photo by: Tracie Hall via Flickr

5. Newport Aquarium -Newport, KY

This awesome overnight experience is something not to miss if you are in the Newport Area. First up, children and adults of all ages are welcome although they do recommend children be at least 6 years old. Each group of children must be accompanied by an adult and there will be no shortage of fun activities to keep everyone entertained all night long. Along with backstage animal experiences and encounters, sleepover guests will get guided tours, help with tank feedings and enjoy either a shark or penguin presentation. The sleeping areas include Shark Tunnel (our personal favorite), Jellyfish Gallery or Coral Tunnel. An evening snack and breakfast is included, as is admission to the aquarium the next day. At just $49 per person, this is an amazing price to check out what happens after dark at this ultra cool aquarium.

Photo by: Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Jeff Kubina via Wikimedia Commons

4. SeaWorld -San Diego, CA and San Antonio, TX

For any animal lover ages four to 14, with an adult chaperone, a family sleepover at SeaWorld might just be the most unforgettable and exciting night of your life. Your event begins at 5:45 pm where guests will be invited to check in and eat a delicious pasta dinner. Following that are a multitude of animal encounters and fun and educational activities. Bedtime ranges between 10 pm to midnight and sleepover guests are encouraged to explore SeaWorld the entire next day, as admission is included. Kids also love the fact that they get a souvenir SeaWorld sleepover t-shirt to take home. If you happen to take the kids to SeaWorld San Antonio, try to visit during the Christmas season and stay overnight at the South Pole with the penguin encounter. Nothing says Merry Christmas than waking up to these cheerful creatures. Whichever experience you decide to try, you won’t be disappointed at SeaWorld.

Roka / Shutterstock.com
Roka / Shutterstock.com

3. Monterey Bay Aquarium -Monterey Bay, CA

Seashore sleepovers at this aquarium offer animal loves the chance to experience the aquarium after hours, even choosing to sleep next to your favorite exhibit. Check in begins at 6 pm and sleeping areas are first come first serve, which means you best come early to get the sleeping area you want. The doors close at 8 pm to the general public and that is truly when the adventure begins. Special programming throughout the night means you won’t ever be bored and participants can choose to explore the aquarium on their own or participate in one of the many activities. A light evening snack is offered and bedtime is between 10:30 pm and 11 pm. In the morning have a continental breakfast in the café and spend the rest of the day exploring the aquarium by daylight.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

2. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada -Toronto, ON

Let’s talk facts; this aquarium features over 16,000 animals, North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel and more than 100 interactive exhibits, including three touch exhibits featuring horseshoe crabs, sharks and rays. What makes this aquarium even better, which we didn’t think was possible, is there shark sleepovers. Yes we said shark sleepovers. Visitors are invited throughout the year to curl up under the famous shark tank and sleep under the watchful eyes of the scary sharks that swim overhead. Included in this experience is admission to the aquarium in the evening and the next day, a take home activity in the classroom and a late night snack plus breakfast. The aquarium does remain open to the general public until 11 pm on the night of the sleepover but rest assured you will be the only ones that get to experience the overnight in the dangerous lagoon tunnel, packed full of sand tiger sharks, roughtail stingrays and green sea turtles.

mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com
mikecphoto / Shutterstock.com

1. National Aquarium in Baltimore -Baltimore, MD

It is no surprise that this impressive aquarium boasts two awesome sleepovers for anyone over the age of eight. Visitors here can choose to sleepover with the dolphins or the sharks, each offering unique programming. For dolphin lovers the evening begins with a talk from the marine mammal team where you will get to know the dolphins and discover how they learn and play. From there, a kid-friendly dinner is served and you are off to experience the 4-D immersion films, explore the aquarium after dark and discover the behind-the-scenes area with expert guides. Fall asleep in one of the underwater viewing areas and in the morning help wake the dolphins up with an exclusive enrichment session. If you choose to sleep with the sharks, expect much of the same experiences; only substitute the dolphin with the shark. A once in a lifetime opportunity awaits you here at this awesome aquarium.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

9 Things to See and Do in Muizenberg Beach

Muizenberg is a small town outside Cape Town and one of South Africa’s best kept secrets. A largely untapped tourist spot, it’s hard to believe Muizenberg is best known for being one of the most popular beaches with one of the most active surfing communities in South Africa. This beachside suburb supports crowded streets and a bustling beach during the holiday season as locals flock to enjoy this little shoreline town. Though the beach is the main attraction, there’s  more to Muizenberg than just sand and water, there’s plenty of surf shops, restaurants and coffee shops located just along the main beach. With a strong colonial history, Muizenberg has great  historical attractions along with local hotspots for the travelers who are looking to veer off the tourist map and get the most authentic experience. Here are 9 things to do while visiting Muizenberg Beach.

9. Karaoke at The Brass Bell

The Brass Bell is a nearby restaurant and pub located in the trendy harbor of Kalk Bay. Easily accessible by train and located right next to the Kalk Bay train station, it is a must-do for Muizenberg travelers. The Brass Bell has a unique setting as it sits right up along the water, nestled in the tidal pool walls. During the day, visitors should head to the outdoor terrace dining area for an enjoyable meal, take in the views of water and listen to the sounds waves crashing up along the shore. At night the bar below has large windows looking out onto the rolling waves creating an atmosphere unlike any other! For the best experience, go on a Wednesday night as the restaurant attracts a rowdy crowd for karaoke. Be sure to sign up early because on busy nights the wait to get up on stage can be long. It’s a great spot to meet locals and backpackers who stop in for the night while passing through to neighboring towns.

Photo by: Brass Bell Restaurant
Photo by: Brass Bell Restaurant

8. Het Posthuys

Located on what is known as the ‘historical mile’ along Mainroad in Muizenberg, Het Posthuys is the oldest standing building on the False Bay coastline. It is a must-see for those who are interested in South Africa’s early colonial history. This place has a unique story you’ll want to hear. Built in 1962 by the Dutch after Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Cape Town, Het Posthuys means “post house” in Dutch and has served many purposes throughout the years. In the early days it was a lookout post to prevent illicit trading, then later a naval storage facility, ale and eating house and finally a personal residence. In the 1980’s the building was restored, but still retains many of its defining historical characteristics now operating as a museum. Decked out with old memorabilia from the Battle of Muizenberg and historic photos from the past, it’s a great place to go on a rainy day or even fulfill a morning venture. The museum operates from Monday to Friday, 10 am to 2 pm and here’s the bonus: admission is free! It is now run by volunteers so it’s best to call ahead before visiting.

Photo by: Debbielouise via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Debbielouise via Wikimedia Commons

7. Rhodes Cottage Museum

This building was built as a tribute to Cecil John Rhodes and is located just down the road from the Het Posthuys museum on the historical mile. As a British empire-builder, Rhodes was a prominent figure in South Africa’s early history, a jack of all trades involved in the mining industry and local politics. This cottage served as his private retreat where he spent his last days before he died in 1902, when he was one of the richest men in the world. This seaside cottage sits upon a hill overlooking False Bay with a beautiful English garden full of items commemorating his life, the house even still contains some of his old furnishings! The volunteers that run this museum are well versed in its history and happy to answer the questions of visiting tourists. You will even be greeted with a hot cup of tea. Hop from one museum to another and see both in one day. The museum is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm with admission by donation.

 

Photo by: Lennon Fletcher via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Lennon Fletcher via Wikimedia Commons

6. Hangout at Knead Bakery & Cafe

Knead is a chic cafe located on ‘surfer’s corner’ along Muizenberg beach. This cafe and bakery stands out from the surrounding rural surf town, but is a great spot to stop for lunch while hanging out at the beach. It’s also one of the best spots to grab a cup of coffee. With a luxurious interior, there’s a glass enclosed patio offering direct views of the beach and surrounding mountains. It’s a popular spot to stop in for a quick meal, or pick up some tasty freshly baked goods, either way you’re sure to be satisfied. The food is well presented and carefully prepared, here visitors can feast on cheap, but fancy artisan food. You can’t find a meal like this anywhere else in Muizenberg!

Photo by: Knead Bakery & Cafe
Photo by: Knead Bakery & Cafe

5. Mzoli’s Place

Mzoli’s place is one of the biggest and best secrets on this list of things to see and do in Muizenberg. You won’t find a high dollar meal here, this open air restaurant serves various grilled meat options to visitors at plastic tables and chairs. This place is actually a butchery, but has become somewhat of an entertainment venue supporting vibrant parties and live music for locals and international visitors. You’ll want to go on a Sunday because that is when this place comes alive attracting an average of 250 people by mid afternoon. This is the place to come for a true local experience. Known for its meat which is braaied (barbecued) right on the spot with signature spices and herbs. Patrons must bring their own cutlery and beverages. It is not recommended to travel here alone, Mzoli’s is located in a township in Guguletu where poverty is rampant and there is potential for crime, so travel safely and with others.

Photo by: Cape Town
Photo by: Cape Town

4. Visit the Blue Bird Garage Market

The Blue Bird Garage Market is the cornerstone of the community. Known as the ‘Friday market’ because it kicks off each weekend, open only on Friday evenings from 4 pm till 10 pm. This old postal plane hanger comes alive with vendors from nearby towns and their locally made goods. It offers a collection of fresh food from various cultures that is cooked right in front of you! Talk about great service. There is live music, an array of decadent homemade desserts and pastries for sale, along with handcrafted jewellery and clothing. You’ll get a real local experience at this market and a chance to take home some truly one of a kind gifts and goods. You’ll find great gifts and memorabilia for yourself or loved ones back home that can’t be found in any tourist gift shop. There’s no entry fee to this market, so make sure to check it out!

Photo by: Blue Bird Garage Food and Goods Market
Photo by: Blue Bird Garage

3. Go to Muizenberg Beach

There’s more than one reason Muizenberg beach was deemed one of the best swimming spots in Cape Town. For beginners, its turquoise waters are surrounded by a towering mountain creating the most majestic scenery. Also, because of its location within a secluded bay, the waters here are much warmer, ideal for swimmers and surfers. Muizenberg beach is located on False Bay, a curved coastline that is so large that sailors used to mistake it for Table Bay, the harbor front on the Atlantic seaboard in Cape Town. The beach is lined with brightly colored Victorian change houses which act as a reminder of Muizenberg’s long history as one of Cape Town’s best beach spots. It should be noted that False Bay is a popular spot for Great White sharks, although few incidents have occurred, there is a shark spotter program in place to protect swimmers and surfers who flock to the beach in the summer months. The program is supported by color coded flags that are changed based on the ever-changing water conditions to inform swimmers about their safety. With generally calm waters, and a flat open beach this is the ideal spot for families with children. Muizenberg Beach

2. Hike Up Muizenberg Mountain

There are a few different hikes to choose from when climbing Muizenberg mountain, each offering something different, from forest walks to gentle inclines, steep slopes with beautiful views and even rocky walls for experienced climbers. Muizenberg mountain is not as challenging or well known as Table Mountain in Cape Town, but still offers hikers a breathtaking view all the way up to the peak. The shortest climb takes about one to 1.5 hours with the longest taking up to five hours, but this all depends on the amount of breaks needed along the way and how many times you want to stop and gaze, taking in the beautiful scenery below. At the top, hikers are privy to a bird’s eye view of False Bay and views of the longest beach in Cape Town. This hike requires some physical exertion, so dress accordingly and always bring plenty of water and sunscreen. There are some steep climbs, but the gentler routes are kid friendly, so pack a lunch and have a picnic at the top with the best view in town! Muizenberg Mountain

1. Surf in False Bay

False Bay is one of the best spots to surf in the world, so it’s no wonder Muizenberg beach is home to one of the most thriving surfing communities in South Africa. This beach offers the perfect launching point for surfers into the bay. Warm waters is one of the reasons this beach is so popular, but you’ll still want to wear a wetsuit when heading out to surf away from shore as the water temperature can still be quite chilly, especially for beginners. If you’ve never surfed before, but always wanted to learn, Muizenberg is the perfect spot to do so. The waves here are big enough to surf, but small enough for beginners. Before getting into the water be sure to educate yourself of the shark safety regulations posted on the beach. If you don’t have your own equipment, don’t worry, there are plenty of shops to purchase lessons and rent equipment so it’s easy to get started. Surfing in Muizenberg

The 10 Coolest Train Rides in the World

In the 21st century, train travel has been displaced by other modes of transport, like air travel and automobiles. But many travelers laud the experience of train travel; it’s often faster than a car and, unlike air travel, it allows you to see the landscape as you roll along toward your destination. Reflecting this, many train operations now offer luxury tours for travelers who want to ride in style without missing an opportunity for exploration. Combining amazing scenery, national treasures and elegance, here are 10 of the coolest train rides around the world.

10. Maharajas Express -India

Travel through India on this amazing train journey. Five different routes are offered, departing from either Mumbai or Delhi. Choose from a four day journey or an eight day grand tour of some of the most famous and majestic places on the Indian subcontinent. Partake in Hindu rituals at the ghats of the Ganges or witness a polo match played not on horses, but on the backs of elephants. From ancient civilizations to the Taj Mahal, you’ll see palaces and museums, national parks and beaches on the Heritage of India tour. On the Indian Splendor tour, you’ll have a chance to explore an abandoned kingdom and a dinosaur fossil park. Departures are limited, usually once per month between October and April, so if you want to travel on the Maharajas Express, you’ll want to plan in advance.

Photo by: Maharajas' Express
Photo by: Maharajas’ Express

9. Grand Canyon -USA

Train travel is almost synonymous with the American West; train service was the glue that held the nation together until the mid-20th century. The Grand Canyon Railway captures the Old West feel with its stops at historic train depots and the El Tovar hotel, which was built in 1905. The railway has a number of unique passenger cars, including the dome cars that are peculiar to American railways. Two of the luxury parlor cars feature open-air platforms for observation. Trains depart the Williams depot daily and arrive at the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park two hours and 15 minutes later. The trains return to Williams around 3:30 in the afternoon. Along the 65-mile journey, the train passes through diverse terrain of the high Sonoran desert and mountainous areas, and passengers might sight any number of animals, including pronghorns, and a variety of plants.

Grand Canyon Railway

8. The Ghan -Australia

Connecting Darwin at the northern tip of the Australian continent and Adelaide on the southern coast, The Ghan makes one of the most fascinating trips in the world. The Great Southern Rail-operated train travels almost 3,000 kilometers over the span of 54 hours, with a four hour stop over in Alice Springs. The train originally ran between Adelaide and Alice Springs, beginning operations in the late 1890s; it wasn’t until 2004 that Darwin was connected. The reasons are obvious: the route runs through vast swaths of the rugged Australian Outback. With the new train in operation, getting to Darwin and seeing the Outback has never been easier, although delays and track trouble still plague the line. Stops at Katherine and Alice Springs allow time for optional tours. The Ghan generally runs once a week, although two services operate weekly between June and September.

The Ghan, Australia

7. Blue Train -South Africa

The South African Blue Train is world-renowned for its luxury service, boasting butlers, two lounge cars, an observation car and private carriages with gold-tinted picture windows. The train takes passengers nearly 1,000 miles between Pretoria and Cape Town. Originally, the service was meant to connect passengers from Johannesburg to England-bound ships in Cape Town. There was a time when four routes were offered, but all have been discontinued except the route between Pretoria and Cape Town. The train makes at least one stop in either direction, allowing guests to explore the Open Mine Museum at Kimberley Station or enjoy a glass of sherry at Matjiesfontein. The journey takes passengers between inland and coastal areas, showcasing the spectacular scenery of the South African landscape. Passengers will journey across scrubland, through mountain foothills and across rivers in the height of luxury. Bring formal wear for your dinner engagement.

Blue Train, South Africa

6. Trans-Siberian -Russia

Not just a single line, the Trans-Siberian Railway is rather a collection of lines that traverse the huge expanse of the Siberian hinterland, connecting European Russia with the Russian Far East, the Sea of Japan and branching into Mongolia, China and North Korea. It is the longest railway in the world, spanning 5,772 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok, and is still being expanded. Even before its completion in 1916, it had become a hotspot for travelers, who then wrote about their experiences. The journey from Moscow takes about six days and crosses seven time zones before dropping passengers on the Pacific Coast. The line is still incredibly important for the transportation of goods and people between Moscow and the Russian Far East, and its historical importance cannot be underscored enough. The journey might not be the most luxurious, but it is certainly a fascinating view of Russia.

TransSiberian Railway

5. Royal Scotsman -UK

If you look at many top-10 lists for rail travel, you’re almost bound to run into the Royal Scotsman, a luxury liner that offers charter tours of the Scottish Highlands in the UK. With a variety of tour options, ranging from two nights in the Highlands to the seven night Grand Tour of Britain, the journey makes plenty of time for stops at local attractions, such as castle ruins, whisky distilleries and iconic natural wonders. Some journeys even include outdoor pursuits like shooting clay pigeons. As you travel, the observation car provides spectacular views of the glens, lochs and villages that make up the Highland vistas. Dining makes use of the best local ingredients and experiences are mixed between formal and informal. Combining luxury with an amazing tour of the Scottish landscape like you’ve never seen before, it’s little wonder the Royal Scotsman ranks highly on so many travelers’ bucket lists!

Photo by: Simon Pielow via Flickr
Photo by: Simon Pielow via Flickr

4. Glacier Express -Switzerland

While the Glacier Express isn’t a very quick trip—in fact, it has a reputation for being the slowest express train in the world—you probably won’t mind as you pass through the Alps between St. Moritz and Zermatt in Switzerland. The 7.5-hour journey takes passengers across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the Oberalp Pass. Large portions of the railway use a rack-and-pinion system for ascending through the steep Alpine inclines—up to 6, 670 feet at its zenith! Running east-west almost across the length of the country, the train travels through a number of important sites: the Albula/Bernina section of the trip are part of a World Heritage Site and the train journeys through the Rhine Gorge and up to the Matterhorn in Zermatt. Since the 1980s, the trains have run year-round, which means this spectacular trip can be enjoyed by travelers no matter the season.

Glacier Express, Switzerland

3. Eastern & Oriental Express -Thailand to Singapore

The Oriental Express is an actual train service, journeying through the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and, since 2007, Laos. The tour starts in Singapore and stops in Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth and Kanchanaburi before arriving in Bangkok. A guided tour of the River Kwai and a tour of Georgetown, near Penang, are included on the most popular route, although there are nine routes to choose from. The Singapore-Bangkok route takes three days to complete. The journey has been awarded a place on the Society of International Railway Travelers’ “Top 25 Trains” list, earning points for service, dining, beauty and off-train experiences. The service is operated by Belmond, a renowned name in luxury train travel, and is considered one of the best ways to explore Southeast Asia. In 2015, two new “signature journeys” were introduced.

Photo by: Simon Pielow via Flickr
Photo by: Simon Pielow via Flickr

2. Hiram Bingham -Peru

Hop aboard this luxury liner and ride the rails between the city of Cusco and the ancient Inca capital of Machu Picchu. This ride consistently makes the top-10 lists for travelers visiting Peru, and not only because it heads up to the sacred Inca city. Part of the Orient Express, the train operates in both directions and is named after the discoverer of Machu Picchu. Combine slithering through the soaring Andes in the Incan outback with fine dining and a relaxing four hour trip. Guests have brunch on the trip to Aguas Caliente, and dinner if they catch the late train back to Cusco. A local band provides live entertainment during the trip and guests can sample the Peruvian drink pisco as the train rumbles alongside the Urubamba River, which flows from the Sacred Valley. The observation car features an open deck for passengers to better enjoy the view!

Hiram Bingham, Peru

1. Rocky Mountaineer -Canada

The Rocky Mountaineer isn’t one route, but four routes running between Alberta and British Columbia in Western Canada. Formed in 1990, the company operates the busiest privately owned passenger rail service in North America, with more than one million passengers having boarded the train since its inception. The Rocky Mountaineer is a perennial favorite among train travel enthusiasts, having been named the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” seven times and the Society of American Travel Writers’ top train ride in 2009. All four routes run through the rugged Canadian Rockies, some of them following historic routes such as the Canadian Pacific. In 2013, it was announced that a three day trip from Seattle would be offered. All trains operate during the day, with some overnight stops, between May and September. The “Journey through the Clouds” takes passengers over the Canadian National railway through the Rockies, between Vancouver and Jasper.

Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

10 Things to See and Do in Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is one of three capital cities in South Africa, a primate city and among the most populated in the country. The city is well-known for its harbour, the Cape Floristic Region, Table Mountain and Cape Point. There are many things to see and do here like visiting Boulders Beach, Table Mountain and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden or have some adventures cage diving with sharks or perhaps going on a wildlife safari. Whatever your preference, you will find it in Cape Town…adventure, natural beauty, urban excitement and peaceful tranquility.

10. Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is a beach made up of inlets between granite boulders on either side giving it its namesake. In 1982, a colony of African Penguins settled there attracting many visitors. Though it is close to a residential area, the beach offers a safe haven for these birds where visitors can get up close and observe them while the penguins roam freely. The colony started out with just two breeding pairs and since then, the colony has grown to over 3,000. Boulders Beach is the one of the most popular recreational areas, but the penguins are best viewed from Foxy Beach where boardwalks take you within feet of the magnificent birds. Penguins may not be something you’d expect to see in Africa, but with this beautiful beach in arms reach of Cape Town, you’ll have a chance to meet these mild mannered birds up close.

Boulder's Beach

9. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Located at the eastern foot of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is a well-flourished garden covering five of Africa’s six different biomes. Within the gardens is a large conservatory (The Botanical Society Conservatory) exhibiting a selection of plants from the savanna, fynbos, karoo and other areas. The outdoor area of the gardens focuses on native plants and flora in the Cape area. There are several trails leading from the gardens, up to the mountain slopes that are great for hikers and mountaineers. The most popular trail is up a ravine called Skeleton Gorge and is an easy route to the summit of Table Mountain. So if you would like to enjoy a beautiful garden and some great hiking, you must make this one of your vacation destinations.

David Steele / Shutterstock.com
David Steele / Shutterstock.com

8. Helicopter Tour: Indian and Atlantic Oceans

There are very few places in the world that offer a view of two different oceans in one helicopter tour and Cape Town is your opportunity for this once in a lifetime experience. You can float through the sky around the breathtakingly beautiful Table Mountain along the Atlantic coastline and across the Cape Peninsula to the Indian Ocean. You will get a bird’s-eye view of a changing landscape around the coast, from the peaks of Signal Hill to the sandy beaches and luxurious homes in Camps Bay. You will even have a chance to see great white sharks swimming off the shore around Muizenberg Beach. From the mountain ranges, oceans and shorelines, to the magnificent urban landscape, the view is something you won’t soon forget. The flight is about 25 minutes and includes a pilot’s commentary on the sights below. It is an incredible experience for everyone to remember.

Cape Town

7. Cape Malay Cultural Tour

Cape Town, being the oldest city in South Africa, boasts its colonial heritage and influences from its immigrant communities like the Cape Malays. You can take a four hour cultural tour led by an expert guide and learn all about the history of the area. You will visit the community of Bo-Kaap (Malay Quarter), visit the Bo-Kaap Museum, take a walk through the City Bowl neighborhood and end off with a feast of traditional South African food at one of the local’s homes. The brightly colored houses, history of the area and magnificent architecture will keep you mesmerized and that is only part of the experience. You will visit a spice shop and learn about the aromatic spices used in their local cuisine. After all that, your guide will introduce you to a host family for your traditional dinner. It’s a great way to get immersed in South African culture.

Cape Malay

6. Cage Diving with Great White Sharks

If you are the adventurous type and would like to have an adrenaline pumping good time, then cage diving with Great White Sharks should be on your vacation agenda. Many people fantasize about doing this, but never have the opportunity to actually do it. Professional shark chasers will take you on a ride like you’ve never had before. Your adventure will begin with a continental breakfast, then a safety briefing is held after payment is received. From there, you will board the shark-chaser to a pre-determined destination. The ship will drop anchor and then attract the sharks using a chum mixture. Once the sharks arrive, you can photograph them feeding at the water’s surface and enter the cage. It remains attached to the boat at all times and will keep you safe while surrounded by great whites. What an awesome experience! Be sure to book in advance.

Shark Diving in South Africa

5. Aquila Game Reserve Wildlife Safari

Have you ever wanted to go on an African Wildlife Safari? Well here’s your chance. You can take a day trip or two-day excursion if you have a little more leisure time and really want the full experience with an overnight stay. There are a few different options available depending on time, money and your sense of adventure. You can spend a day on a quad bike roughing it, take a helicopter ride over the Hex River Mountains & vineyards or go on a horseback safari tour. The reserve also offers a day combo tour involving a drive in an open safari vehicle with a buffet breakfast and lunch, stops for a dip in natural rock pools to cool down, and a horseback or quad bike ride. Two-day trips include overnight accommodations and includes a flight by either helicopter or airplane. This is your chance to see lions, rhinos, buffalo, elephants and leopards up close.

Game Reserve

4. District Six

District Six is the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town and originally established as a diverse community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers and immigrants. Eventually, more than 60,000 people were forced out of the district to the barren outlying areas known as the Cape Flats leading to demolition of the houses remaining there. In 1994, the District Six Museum was established in an effort to remember early life in District Six and the forced removals. The district has now become a National Heritage Site revitalizing the area though in a different form than originally intended. Permanent exhibits at the museum include Digging Deeper which is a living memorial to District Six reaffirming their identity and celebrating their heritage. Visiting Cape Town without stopping here would be a mistake with its importance to the entire area and its survival.

Photo by: Diriye Amey via Flickr
Photo by: Diriye Amey via Flickr

3. Cape of Good Hope

Located on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, the Cape of Good Hope is  rocky headland and contrary to popular belief, is not the southern tip of Africa. The Cape however, is the starting point where ships start moving more eastward than southward. It has become one of the most visited tourist destinations in South Africa because of its diverse wildlife, rich culture and natural heritage. There is a visitor’s centre there displaying plants and animals to look out for during different seasons and has informative displays. Views from the lighthouse offer an amazing panoramic view. If you enjoy the outdoors, this paradise offers it all: hiking, surfing, angling, picnicking, beaching and cycling. Two restaurants and a curio shop offer a good meal and a place to pick up a souvenir.

Cape of Good Hope

2. Two Oceans Aquarium

Because of its proximity to the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Cape Town serves as the perfect venue for showcasing the diverse marine life found there. Exhibits here include the I&J Predator Exhibit featuring large sharks through an 11-metre acrylic panel, Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit – a virtual underwater forest, Penguin Exhibit, the Indian Ocean Gallery featuring clownfish and honeycomb eels, Atlantic Ocean Gallery featuring translucent jellies, a Touch Pool where you can feel shells, plants and sea life and a Microscope to view marine life like never before. There is also an area for children called the AfriSam Children’s Play Centre where kids are treated to entertaining and educational puppet shows, marine themed arts and crafts and a place to sit and watch penguins swim by. It’s a wonderfully fun and educational family destination.

InnaFelker / Shutterstock.com
InnaFelker / Shutterstock.com

1. Table Mountain

A prominent landmark overlooking Cape Town is a flat-topped mountain called Table Mountain. As the country’s most photographed attraction, it has become South Africa’s best known attribute with millions of people being transported up the mountain on its famous cable car. It is a photographer’s paradise with its 2,200 species of plants, 1,470 floral species and a breathtaking view of Cape Town. With over 70% of the flowers being endemic to Table Mountain, it is no surprise that it was named one of the new seven wonders of the world. You may also see some of the local wildlife which includes caracals, rock hyraxes and chacma baboons. It’s an incredible natural wonder just waiting to be explored and experienced by you.

Table Mountain

12 Best Warm Weather Escapes for the Holidays

Tired of spending your holiday season slaving over a hot oven trying to get the turkey cooked just right? Are you tired of shoveling snow and wearing winter boots all season long? Are you ready for a bit of relaxation and sunshine over the holidays? How does sunshine, ocean breezes, and barbecues sound? This season choose to trade in your turkey for a beach barbecue, your shovel for a snorkel and your boots for a bathing suit. Keep the Christmas spirit alive with twinkling lights, visits to Santa, magical live shows and Christmas parades.  Explore some of the most gorgeous countries, islands and cities in the world that offer unique holiday seasons and escape with us as we give you the 12 best warm weather escapes for the holidays.

1. Grand Cayman

White sand, a sparkling blue ocean and palm trees swaying in the cool breeze doesn’t exactly shout Christmas but don’t fret; there are plenty of Christmas activities and traditions in Grand Cayman. Visiting over the holiday season requires booking early into one of the many villas, resorts, hotels or condos. From luxury hotels to beach houses there is no shortage of great places to stay here. The culinary capital of the Caribbean boasts fabulous restaurants with award-winning chefs. But if you really want to experience Christmas here, read on.

Besides the 40 foot decorated Christmas tree and the parade of lights that sees boats cruise the harbor decorated with lights and decorations, you can also find Santa on this Island. Cruising around in his shorts and t-shirt, Santa can be found at his house (aka his boat) twice a week. If Christmas lights are what you are after during the holidays make sure to take the Christmas Light Tour which can be done by driving around the island or hopping on the bus to explore the many houses decorated in lights. Leave the cold, snow and pine trees behind and escape to this beautiful island where gorgeous weather and sparkling lights make this a very special Christmas.

Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach

2. St. Croix

You may not think about heading to the Virgin Islands for Christmas but with beautiful mountains, beaches, a rainforest, outstanding scuba diving and a month long Christmas Festival; it’s one of our favorite places to escape to over the holidays. From boutique hotels to villas right on the beach, from championship golf courses to 18th century forts to the best global dining options of the Islands; you won’t be bored here.

Make sure to head to St. Croix early enough in December to catch the Christmas Boat Parade where the boardwalk and streets are decked out in a Christmas theme. Watch as the parade of boats travel by; all seeming to top the next in decorations and lights. Stick around for the amazing fireworks display that happens after the parade. The annual St. Croix Christmas Festival or Carnival as it’s often called; is a month long festival that involves parades, live music events, local cuisine, arts and craft fairs and so much more. Every day/night of the week discover a different pageant, show or fair to explore. Stay throughout the first week of January to discover the infamous Three Kings Day Parade in which the adults strut down the street in costumes. Christmas is widely celebrated on this island and the sun, beach and gorgeous scenery make for the perfect holiday setting.

St. Croix

3. Cape Town, South Africa

Don’t spend your holidays shoveling snow, slaving over a hot kitchen stove or worrying about running out of eggnog. Instead head to beautiful Cape Town with its glorious beaches, abundance of cocktails and plethora of dining options with breathtaking views. Beautiful botanical gardens, South African penguins, exceptional wineries and your choice of accommodations including hostels, hotels, resorts and luxury 5-star resorts are just some the reasons you need to visit over the holidays.

Let’s talk about the Christmas festivities now. Christmas Markets start in early November and run all the way to Christmas offering everything from ceramics to home décor to one-of-a-kind crafts and gifts. Visit the brand new Christmas Village which includes Santa’s House, a Nativity Barn, Fantasyland and an Elves Clubhouse. Treat yourself to a traditional Christmas lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants that offer up a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Christmas lights, parades and free entertainment are prominent throughout Cape Town during the month of December. Bask in the sun, enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner and fall in love with the amazing city of Cape Town.

Lighthouse Cape Town, South Africa

4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brilliant sunshine, silky sand and breathtaking ocean views make Rio de Janeiro the perfect city to visit over the holidays. Mountain tops that tower over wide white sand beaches with beach side restaurants offering delicious cuisine and some of the best accommodations in Brazil; Rio also offers spectacular Christmas festivities.

Take in the enormous floating Christmas tree that measures over 85 meters high and is set up on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon waters. Every year the tree takes on a different theme and is first lit up on December 1st and remains lit until January 6th. Furthermore the Christmas Lights in Rio are switched on the first of December. The lights and decorations cover the churches, store windows, city squares, palm trees and other huge buildings around the city. Reindeer, snowmen and Santa Claus decorations line the shop windows around town. Shopping centers ofter up seasonal product launches, skating rinks and extended shopping hours. The perfect combination of Christmas and sunshine puts Rio de Janeiro on our list of top holiday escapes.

ANDRE DURAO / Shutterstock.com
ANDRE DURAO / Shutterstock.com

5. Australia

Sun instead of snow, sun bathing instead of shoveling and a BBQ instead of a turkey dinner; sounds like Christmas in Australia. A multicultural country offering expansive landscapes, summer weather in December and bustling vibrant cities; Australia is a top choice for travelers when looking to escape somewhere warm for the holidays. Whether you choose to visit Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or any of the coasts you can be assured Christmas festivities will be taking place.

From Christmas carols, to decorated Christmas trees and houses to candlelight services; Australia does Christmas right. A popular decoration in this neck of the woods is the Australian Christmas Bush; a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream colored flowers that turn deep shiny red near Christmas time. Picnics of cold meats and cooked prawns and BBQ’s on the beach replace traditional turkey dinners and cold bubbly champagne replaces traditional eggnog. Since Christmas in Australia takes place in the middle of summer you really can’t go wrong visiting this continent during the holidays. Enjoy the holiday concerts each town puts on while you sit under the stars by candlelight and listen to the magical voices, or visit one of the many elaborate light displays you can find all over the country. Fabulous dining, breathtaking scenery and kangaroos instead of reindeer make Australia the perfect getaway during the holidays.

Visun Khankasem / Shutterstock.com
Visun Khankasem / Shutterstock.com

6. Puerto Rico

In a city more than 500 years old; culture, cuisine and jingle bells set to a salsa tune set the stage for one of the best vacations during the holiday season. Choose from historic hotels bathed in warm hues of color, luxury boutique villas and idyllic ocean views. Palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze, exotic flora and fauna and strolls through the rainforest make up the atmosphere of the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

Christmas time is a special time here. Take part in an annual tradition and participate in masses held at dawn featuring the singing of Aguinaldo’s, which are Puerto Rican versions of Christmas Carols. Celebrate an authentic Puerto Rican Christmas on Christmas Eve where you will dine on the traditional dinner of roast pork, patties and rice and beans. Catch a live reenactment of the nativity scene at one of the Midnight Masses and embrace the local culture. Join in the tradition of shopping for a hand-carved wooden saint for your special someone. Puerto Rico: a perfect blend of laid back atmosphere, sunshine filled days and Christmas Spirit that will stick with you year round.

Puerto Rico

7. Bali, Indonesia

An Indonesian paradise worthy of any postcard, no matter what time of the year. Imagine white sand beaches, lush tropical jungles, mischievous monkeys, and stunning coral ridges. Think of beachside villas, open air huts and small unique resorts that cater to every need possible. Despite the rains that often visit Bali in December; there’s plenty of sunshine and Christmas spirit that makes this destination a top escape for the holiday season.

Great fun, devotion, beach parties and celebrations sum up the essence of Christmas in Bali. Recognized as a national holiday in the country; hotels, shopping centers and resorts get in the spirit. Christmas lights and decorations are hung throughout, trees are in hotel lobbies decorated and lit, letters are delivered to Santa Claus and traditional Christmas lunches and dinners are served at a few different restaurants.  Markets in Bali often run out of stock for Christmas gifts so we suggest shopping earlier rather than later. Beach parties throughout the night on Christmas Day, fireworks and special functions all help to make your holiday unforgettable in Bali.

Bali beach

8. Hawaii

You don’t have to go to the other end of the world to celebrate your holiday with sunshine, palm trees and ocean views. Head to the Islands of Hawaii where Christmas is celebrated with exuberant parades, lights and concerts throughout. Whether you are hiking up volcanoes, discovering the migration of the humpback whales, stand up paddle boarding with the sea turtles or attending a traditional Hawaiian Luau; this is the perfect spot to escape the cold weather and head to the tropics.

Christmas in Hawaii is celebrated with surfing Santa’s, reindeer being replaced with dolphins and Santa’s sled being replaced by canoes. In Honolulu a holiday spectacle is put on with a 50ft pine tree that is covered with shimmering lights, elaborate decorations and live entertainment. Dinner is often a traditional roast meat with all the accompaniments but instead of naps and blissful turkey coma’s; visitors to Hawaii will often head to the beach and join the locals in swimming, surfing and beach parties; where guitars, ukuleles and hula dancing is the norm. Surf, sand and a whole lot of Christmas spirit makes this the perfect escape for the holidays.

cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com
cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com

9. Grenada

Untouched beauty, warm people, white sand beaches, sunken treasures and unspoilt landscapes makes Grenada a top destination for any time of the year. Travel here over the holidays to beat the cold weather blues, skip the shoveling and celebrate Christmas in a new and unique way. Discover an underwater sculpture park, cascading waterfalls and discover this breathtaking spice island.

Christmas brings special food and drink to the table in Grenada. Try the delicious black fruit cake that is baked and soaked with port wine and white rum and wash it down with a refreshing local ginger beer. Or get back to the traditional with a baked stuffed turkey or macaroni pie. Head to the Carriacou Parang Festival with free open-air concerts, cultural presentations and live entertainment. Christmas day tends to be traditional with the exchange of presents, displays of nativity scenes and visits from Santa Claus. Parang music is widely played all over the island incorporating steel pans, guitars, spoons and any other object to make the music friendly and warm. Indulge in the local flavors, explore sunken treasure sinks and escape the cold weather when you head to Grenada for your holiday vacation.

Grenada

10. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles knows how to do twinkly lights; they also know how to do luxury hotels, world-class shopping, award-winning restaurants and glorious sunshine. Although there is no “bad” time to visit LA we suggest taking your next trip here over the holiday season where Christmas is taken to a whole new level of fun. Enjoy the winter activities without the snow, the fabulous free shows and the hundreds of thousands of lights on display.

How about an afternoon of outdoor ice skating on one of many rinks throughout the city? Or head to Disneyland or Universal Studios where your favorite characters have indulged in the festive season. Watch as the Grinch and Whoville take over Universal Studios. Head down to the water to watch the festive boat parades where boats are covered with lights and decorations. The Griffith Park Christmas Lights feature tens of thousands of lights each year as the neighborhoods compete for best dressed. For a unique experience head to the zoo for the light show and reindeer romp. Any which way you turn in this city; the festivities will continue to amaze you. Ditch the winter boots, shovel and jackets and head to the city of angels for your warm weather escape.

Beverley Hills Christmas

11. The Philippines

This country has earned the distinction of having the longest Christmas celebration in the world. Starting in early September and running through January; this warm weather destination celebrates in style. Untouched beauty, white sand beaches, brilliant blue ocean, delicious local cuisine, unique accommodations and some of the world’s best snorkeling and scuba diving are just a few of the reasons you should plan on spending your holiday here. And did we happen to mention the amazing local people?

Christmas in the Philippines is a huge deal and expect plenty of dancing, food, music and festivities anywhere you go. Visit Policarpio Street where an entire neighborhood is dedicated to showcasing the best Christmas decorations and lights. Each neighbor tries to outdo the next and explore the House of Santa which showcases one of the largest displays of Santa’s in the world. Food stalls and bazaars line this incredible street from 6pm-midnight. The COD Christmas display is also worth a visit where a different theme takes stage every year. If you haven’t quite finished your shopping there are plenty of stores in the area to take advantage of; and of course they are all decked out in Christmas décor. A traditional Christmas feel in a country where the people are inviting, the weather is warm and the festivities last for months.

Philippines Christmas

12. New Zealand

New Zealand is less about snow and sleighs and more about sun and backyard BBQ’s at Christmas time. Couple that with the amazingly friendly locals, striking landscapes, underground glowing caves, cascading waterfalls and emerald lakes and you may decide to spend every holiday “Down Under”. Celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer takes on new traditions in this country but don’t fret; we’ve got you covered on what to do to fit right in.

Traditional Christmas Dinner is replaced by either a traditional roast dinner that is cooked under the ground or fresh seafood or ham cooked outdoors on the BBQ. Relax under the shade of the Pohutukawa; New Zealand’s Christmas tree which boasts bright red blooms throughout December. Catch Santa Claus in his Speedo and sunglasses as he surfs the waves, canoes the waters delivering presents or sailing his boat. Maximum daylight hours at Christmas time allow locals and visitors plenty of time to enjoy the sun, sand, sports and relaxation that make up Christmas time in New Zealand.

New Zealand

The Most Dangerous Cities in The World to Travel

It’s now easier than ever to visit distant locations around the world. Some places, however, are best avoided due to dangerous conditions. Certain dangerous places, on the other hand, are also desirable tourist destinations. If you do decide to visit such places, you should at least be aware of the risks and take sensible precautions. Here, in descending order, are the 10 most dangerous cities in the world.

10. Caracas, Venezuela

Elizabeth Fernandez / Getty Images

This is the capital city of Venezuela and it is presently facing a crisis involving drug gangs. Street crimes such as muggings and theft are also common, making this an undesirable destination for most tourists. Many other cities in Venezuela also have high crime rates.

9. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Mexico’s problems with drug traffickers are well known and Ciudad Juarez is one of the nation’s most violent cities right now. Police are often employed or paid off by drug gangs, which means that many crimes go unpunished.

8. Cape Town, South Africa

Johannes Mann / Getty Images

Due to the prevalence of poverty and social unrest in this city, it is suffering from an extremely high crime rate. Although many tourists are drawn to South Africa because of its natural beauty and proximity to nature preserves and other attractions, Cape Town can be a dangerous place. It is possible to enjoy a visit to this city if you avoid the more dangerous sections and don’t travel alone at night.

7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christian Adams / Getty Images

Many cities in Brazil have very high crime rates, and some are more dangerous than Rio de Janeiro. Yet since Rio is by far the most popular tourist destination in Brazil, it’s worth focusing on here. Rio is actually safer than it was a decade ago, but street crimes are still common in many areas, especially at night. It’s possible to enjoy the resorts and beaches of this city, but common sense precautions should be taken.

6. Guatemala City, Guatemala

Sergio Mendoza Hochmann / Getty Images

Although Guatemala, a Central American nation on the Caribbean, has many tourist attractions, it’s a nation that is plagued with drug violence. It has a high murder rate and other common crimes include street robberies, bus holdups and carjackings. It’s advisable if visiting Guatemala to remain in safer regions and avoid Guatemala City.

5. Acapulco, Mexico

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Not long ago, this city was considered a safe and luxurious resort area. While tourism to Acapulco is still popular, drug violence has now made this into a dangerous area. Recent statistics reveal that this city has one of the world’s highest murder rates -142 per 100,000 people. People visiting Acapulco are advised to remain on the property of the resorts where they are staying, as most of the crime occurs in surrounding areas.

4. Baghdad, Iraq

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Bombings, gunfire and other violent events are common in Iraq. This country has been on the “do not travel” list for Americans for many years and Baghdad remains a dangerous place. The future of Iraq is extremely uncertain as U.S. troops are departing from the country. This is another war-torn country that is not likely to be safe anytime soon. Since the violence in Baghdad usually consists of unpredictable outbreaks of terrorism, it’s not a place that people should visit without a good reason.

3. Kabul, Afghanistan

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This has been one of the most dangerous cities in the world for some time. It is still a war zone, although U.S. troops are gradually being removed from the country. Terrorist attacks, including many bombings are common. Kabul is facing a very uncertain future and will probably be a very dangerous place for the foreseeable future. Like Baghdad, Kabul is a city where violence can occur at any time.

2. Karachi, Pakistan

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Pakistan is experiencing a great deal of political unrest, and crime as well as terrorism is rampant. Assassinations are common, as well as suicide bombings and gang warfare. Karachi is one of the centers of this violence and tourists are advised to avoid this city.

1. San Pedro Sula, Honduras

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This city has ranked as one of the world’s most violent for several years now. According to many sources, it has the highest homicide rates in the world -169 per 100,000 people. Arms trafficking is a big problem, and illegal firearms are prevalent throughout the city. This is a city that tourists would do well to avoid.

Curious about the most dangerous places in the United States only? We’ve compiled a list of the most dangerous cities in just the US to increase your travel awareness.