Recently named by Lonely Planet as one of the places to get to in 2015, Botswana is hopping onto people’s radar like never before. Botswana earned the top spot because of its incredible landscape and wildlife, along with its travel benefits such as direct flights into the country. It is indeed one of Africa’s last unspoiled wilderness and much thanks should go to the government for its protection of this wilderness, through conservation efforts. It is here where you can visit National Parks and Sanctuaries that allow you to get up close and personal with wildlife, it is here where you can stay in luxury safari lodges and it is here where you will have the most incredible wildlife experience of your life. Discover 7 of the best experiences in Botswana.
7. Visit Chobe National Park
It is rated as one of the best wildlife and conservation areas in Southern Africa and no trip to Botswana would be complete without visiting here. It actually covers four distinct eco-systems and the Savuti Marsh, in particular, offers some of the highest concentration of wildlife in Africa year round. One of the most popular ways to see the wildlife here, especially some of the 120,000 elephants that reside here, is to hop on a safari cruise, especially as the sunsets.
The best time to visit this national park is from May to September when it is the driest and the coolest. Herds of zebra, buffalo, giraffe, and wildebeest congregate here. You can access this park by driving your own car, but it is recommended you have a 4X4. Otherwise, the lodges and camps offer three-hour safari drives, three times a day in open-top vehicles.
6. Visit Tsodilo Hills
The Tsodilo Hills are a UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of rock art, rock shelters, depressions, and caves, and is home to more than 4500 rock paintings. It is considered a sacred sit by the Bushmen who inhabited it for more than 100,000 years. It is recommended you take a guide with you to this site to fully experience the magic of this place. They will join you on such walking trails as The Rhino Trail, Lion Trail, and Cliff Trail.
Two of the most famous images are the rhino polychromes and the Eland panel, the Eland panel situated on a soaring cliff that overlooks the African wilderness. It is a mystery that has plagued historians as to what the meaning and symbolism behind the rock paintings are, but they are sure that there were religious rituals performed here and the spirituality that oozes from this place is undeniable.
5. Visit Mokolodi Nature Reserve
This educational reserve is the perfect place for families or a starting point for a safari adventure. The animals housed on this reserve cannot be released back to the wild for some reason or another and they enjoy wandering the protected are while visitors have the chance to come up close with them. It is here you will find elephants, rhino, cheetahs, a multitude of birds and other species. The animals here are used to people and have no fear of cameras, allowing the budding wildlife photographer to snag some incredible shots.
The guides here are also entertaining and knowledgeable. There are two awesome experiences to try out at this reserve, the first being their rhino tracking tour. Beginning in a vehicle with a guide, visitors will start tracking the rhino by its tracks. Once you get close you actually get outside your vehicle and track the magnificent beast by foot. Coming up close to one of these endangered animals on foot is truly awe-inspiring. The best part about this reserve; the cost of the visit goes back into support conservation for the people and the animals.
4. Visit the Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Speaking of rhinos, there is no better place to see a multitude of these endangered species than the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a community-based wildlife project that is dedicated to protecting them. The sanctuary provides prime habitat for both black and white rhinos, as well as other animals and birds. It is also one of the most budget-friendly ways to see some of Africa’s awesome wildlife. You can come just for the day; hours are 7am-7pm where you can drive yourself around the park (maps are provided) or hire a guide to take you out.
If you choose to stay overnight, there are plenty of options including a campground and private chalets. Early morning drives seem to be the best in terms of wildlife spotting and waking up at the crack of dawn and joining a knowledgeable guide is totally worth the experience. One of the best parts of this sanctuary, not only do you have the chance to see the elusive rhinos but the profits go back into supporting local Botswana communities.
3. Take an Okavango Delta Canoe Ride
The makoro has become somewhat of an iconic symbol of the Delta, and is one of the most popular ways to explore the Okavango while on safari. What exactly is a makoro though? It is a traditional canoe-like vessel that was commonly used as a mode of transport, originally constructed from tree trunks which were painfully hollowed out using hand tools. Nowadays the modern makoro is made from fiberglass, still retaining its authentic feeling. Each makoro can only carry one or two passengers and the boat-man stands at the stern using a long pole to navigate the waters. It is the most peaceful way to experience a safari and the best way to capture some stunning images as there is no motor to scare off the animals. As you glide peacefully through the water and happen upon an elephant, ear deep in the water, happily munching on reeds, it is then you will understand why this is a must on any trip to Botswana.
2. Splurge on a Luxury Safari Camp
Botswana is arguably the best place in Africa to take a safari, it remains one of the last unpopulated wilderness and conservation efforts include low-volume/high-revenue tourism and significant measurable benefits for local communities who live among the wild animals. There are only about 50 small camps in the Botswana wilderness but boy oh boy are they luxurious. If you are looking to dig deep into your pockets and experience the utmost luxurious safari camp, it is here you should head.
Mombo Camp is one of the most popular, and most expensive featuring enormous walk-in tents complete with beautiful furnishings, open-roofed look out points, exceptional cuisine and cocktails and a location which boasts some of the best animal’s year round. Or visit the Duba Plains camp where a modern gym, Swarovski binoculars and a slew of other amenities.
1. Safari in the Okavango Delta
We have talked about what sort of camp you should stay in but where should you go for a true safari experience. There is only one answer in Botswana and that is to the Okavango Delta where the Okavango River flows into the Kalahari Desert and large groups of animals call this place home. Here you will have the chance to take a riding safari, walking safari, self-driven safari and more.
It is important to note that hunting has been banned in Botswana so all safaris are photographic. It is home to some of the worlds most endangered species of large mammal including the cheetah, white rhino, black rhino, African wild dog and more. Explore this beautiful area that teems with wildlife by joining one of the reputable tour guides and have the experience of a lifetime.
Throw everything you ever thought about honeymoons out the window. Forget the typical all-inclusive resorts, cruises or cottage getaways. Instead, let us introduce you to the best off the beaten path honeymoon destinations you’ll ever find. From sleeping in a glass igloo with the Northern Lights overhead to wandering through waterfalls and jungle, to a National Park that offers both beach and safari; it is a wonder why people still insist on taking traditional honeymoons. These eight incredible destinations will transform your thoughts on where you might want your honeymoon to be.
8. Saadani National Park, Tanzania, Africa
If you are looking to combine beach and adventure, there is no better place to do so than Saadani National Park in Tanzania. Here honeymooners can have both an epic safari and a great beach vacation. Stay at Saadani Safari Lodge where you will spend the morning bathing in the Indian Ocean before jumping into a 4X4 jeep to explore wildlife such as lions and hippos. The 15 tented cottages are hidden amongst palm trees on a tranquil beach and provide the utmost privacy. Enjoy two decked pools, a hidden treehouse overlooking a waterhole that is home to baboons, giraffes, lions and buffalo, a boat bar and restaurant on stilts overlooking the water. Honeymooners should stay in the Siri Suite, a suite situated on top of a sand dune, away from the others complete with its own plunge pool, outdoor kitchen area with personal chef, a bar and a personal butler. Enjoy your own private beach, private safaris and personalized experience. You can truly have it all here.
7. Pucon, Chile
This Chilean city offers adventurous honeymooners the ultimate experience when it comes to climbing, hiking and diving. Stay at Hotel Antumalal, which offers an incredible forest chalet, surrounded by woods and with views of the beautiful Villarrica Lake from your private terrace. Spend the days climbing Villarrica, an active volcano or soothing your muscles in the hot springs. Tours depart right from the front door of this hotel and can include walking tours of the many surrounding waterfalls, kayaking, horseback riding, rafting and more. Head back to the hotel at the end of the day to enjoy the beautiful spa which features a heated indoor/outdoor pool, sauna with views over the lake, hydro massage pool and an abundance of massage and therapies available. The open air restaurant with its fresh seasonal ingredients and exceptional wine menu are sure to delight all honeymooners.
6. Durness, North Scotland
If your idea of a honeymoon is escaping reality and having incredible views of water, mountain and sky, and you don’t mind a self-catering option, Croft 103 is for you. It is here where you will find two incredibly cool boltholes with walls of glass looking out onto some of the most beautiful views on the planet. These cottages are completely private and set apart, featuring stone bathrooms, magnificent kitchens and huge terraces. Think leather sofas in front of a fireplace, an outdoor claw foot bathtub and views that go on forever. Honeymooners will spend their days exploring deserted beaches and hiking empty mountains, taking in storms from the huge terrace and gazing at stars by candlelight. It is self-catering at these cottages, which means you will need to bring your own groceries, or arrange to have homemade meals awaiting there on your arrival.
5. Sanya, Hainan Island, Southeast China
It was once deemed as China’s “gate of hell”, but Hainan Island is now full of breathtaking white sand beaches, thick rainforests, highland mountains, traditional Chinese villages and a slew of luxury hideaways. Honeymooners can spend their days volunteering with sea turtles, visiting ancient temples, snorkeling in the clear waters and hiking in the rainforest. Stay at the awesome beachfront resort on Haitang Bay, The Royal Begonia, which is set against pristine sands and azure waters. Honeymooners should book one of the private villas, which feature a private butler, marble bathrooms, private pools and glittery chandeliers. Enjoy exotic cocktails and local cuisine at the indoor/outdoor restaurant on-site. A state of the art fitness center, spa and accommodations combined with an incredible island full of activities to explore make this the perfect honeymoon destination.
4. Port Antonio, Jamaica
It is easy to choose the Caribbean as your destination honeymoon but if you are looking for something a little more private and off the beaten path, Port Antonio is the perfect choice. This quiet and beautiful haven is known for its incredible white sand beaches, beautiful waterfalls, clear water perfect for diving and snorkeling, nearby rafting and epic sunsets. Honeymooners will spend days tasting freshly caught seafood, relaxing in the sun and walking through the towns and markets. Stay at Geejam Hotel, a beautiful private hotel made up of only seven double rooms. Rooms range from cabins with an outdoor jacuzzi and lush rain forest settings to a villa complete with private pool and personal chef. Make sure to eat your meals at the exquisite Bushbar, the restaurant that features a forest-to-ocean view, outdoor pool table and savory Jamaican and Asian-influenced dishes.
3. Hvar, Croatia
Although this town certainly attracts its share of party-goers, it is actually the perfect destination for honeymooners as well. Think endless lavender fields to wander through, gourmet seafood dinners straight from the sea, relaxing days on the beaches of the Adriatic Sea, day trips to the Paklinski Islands and more. Stay at Hvar’s spa boutique hotel, Adriana, where you can indulge in cocktails on the rooftop bar that offers a wrap-around view of the ancient city, yacht harbor, bay and Paklinski Islands. Book one of the romance packages where you will be treated to in-room love themed daily breakfast, outdoor candle lit massage for two, romantic dinners and more. Splurge on the spa suite, which features extra luxurious furnishings and even more spa access. And hey, if you want to go out and party with the locals and other tourists, there is no shortage of that in this city.
2. Costa de Prata, Portugal
Northern Portugal may not come up on the list of top ten places you want to have your honeymoon, but after reading this, you may just change your mind. It is here where you will walk on the beach, swim in the sea, walk through the walled medieval city of Obidos, play a round of golf or take part in an eco-adventure. Honeymooners should consider staying at Aerias do Seixo as this stunning hotel is located just 35 minutes from the city of Lisbon and features just 14 romantic rooms. Think driftwood beds, pod-like wood stoves suspended from the ceilings and warm colors throughout. Nature pervades everything here, from the impressive environmental credentials to the home-grown organic produce served in the restaurant. Relax in the spa pool, sauna or Turkish bath, book one of the hotel experiences such as a fishing/mussel harvesting morning or take one of the hotel bicycles and explore the surrounding area.
1. Lapland, Finland
Forget about soaking up the sun for your honeymoon and instead embrace the winter by heading to the city of Lapland in Finland. Honeymooners will experience husky dog safaris, northern lights tours, snowmobile excursions, ice-fishing and more. Perhaps the best part about a winter wonderland honeymoon is cuddling up inside at the end of the day. One of the most unique accommodations in Lapland is Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, which offers several different types of rooms including glass igloos built right into the ground, which happens to offer stunning views of the Northern Lights. For those less adventurous couples, stay in one of the log cabins or wood-lined earth lodges that were created specifically with couples in mind, complete with an en-suite sauna. On-site dining at two exceptional restaurants, including one awesome ice bar, a wealth of activities at your fingertips and a city that comes alive in the winter time makes this one of the best off the beaten path honeymoon destinations in the world.
The time is now to rediscover the magic of the walking safari, the first kind of safari there ever was. Discover nature and wildlife using your own two feet, along with an experienced guide. From Kenya to Zambia to the mountains of Uganda and all the way down to South Africa, find out why your next safari should be a walking safari.
8. Tassia Walking Safaris, Kenya
If you are searching for a taste of unspoiled Africa, a Tassia Walking Safari is most definitely for you. The Tassia lodge is where the magic starts to happen, situated on the 60,000 acre Lekurruki Community Ranch, and is home base to all who want to experience a walking safari. The most exhilarating way to explore the area is by foot and Mart Wheeler lends his expertise to those wanting to get up close and personal with wildlife. Martin is an expert at tracking wildlife and will lead guests on rigorous treks and climbs. Expect to spot elephants, buffalo, giraffe, hyena and leopards here. Wheeler also offers an overnight fly camp safari into the Kenyan Bush where you will be treated to an evening under the stars as well as not just one but two walking safaris with ample opportunity for wildlife viewings.
7. Selinda Explorers Camp, Botswana
This small camp is located on a remote stretch of the Selinda Spillway, very close to the heart of the pristine 320,000-acre private Selinda Reserve and only caters to 8 people at a time. Four custom designed tents have been set up underneath the towering jackalberry and mangosteen trees and much effort has been made to rekindle the magic of a proper expedition camp. The majority of wildlife viewing activities is done via walking or canoe, with open vehicle game drives only when necessary. Each morning and late/evening is when the wildlife viewing it at is best and expects to see elephants, hippos, lions, zebras and more. Expect nothing short of a true African walking safari which makes you feel as though you have stepped back in time, just with better food, better drinks and beautiful accommodations.
6. Kitich Walking Safaris, Kenya
The tiny intimate Kitich Camp is located in the remote Mathews Range of forested mountains in Northern Kenya and walking safaris are the only choice offered here. The guides at this camp are known as masters of the forest, they know the trails intimately and can sense the wildlife before they see them. Like stated earlier, this camp avoids game drives and encourages guests to explore on foot. This mountain forest is home to a variety of animals including forest elephant, lion, buffalo, Melanistic leopard, Colobus monkey, waterbuck and zebra, as well as over 350 bird species. As an added bonus the cozy lounge at this camp overlooks the floodlit open river glade and at night guests can watch elephant, buffalo, bushbuck and the occasional leopard emerge from the forest to drink from the river.
5. Rhino Walking Safaris, South Africa
Guests here should be prepared for an intimate, quality, pristine wilderness experience while still lapping up luxury in 12,000 acres of pristine bush outside Kruger. Two highly qualified guides will share their wealth of knowledge on animals, trees, grasses, insects and birds as they take a maximum of eight guests on an incredible walking safari. Plains Camp is home base during the walking safaris and offers four East African Safari-style tents complete with elegant furnishings, treasure antiques and incredible food to eat. A cool plunge pool offers the chance to enjoy a cocktail while overlooking the plains between walks. Expect the walks in this safari to be upwards of four hours long as it is important to get the full hands on sensory experience. For an additional experience make sure you try out the platforms that allow you to sleep under the stars.
4. Selous Safari, Tanzania
Roughly the size of Switzerland, the remote Selous game reserve in south-east Tanzania is Africa’s largest protected wildlife reserve and one of the few places in the country to offer walking with camping. From rivers to open plains to woodlands to lakes and even hot springs, the variety of wildlife found here is simply overwhelming. By day guests will walk with the ranger to a secluded location where you will find your camp set up. Evenings will bring drinks around the campfire, eating under the stars and sleeping in the wild. Days are spent with gentle hikes in the cooler part of the days, searching out wildlife viewing opportunities. This is no luxury safari; frills are kept to the essentials; good simple food, cold drinks and a comfortable bed-roll. The trade off is an opportunity to see wildlife in their true habitat, alongside a knowledgeable guide.
3. Buffalo Camp, Zambia
North Luangwa National Park is one of the last unspoilt true wilderness areas left in Africa, and best explored by foot. Renowned by its huge herds of buffalo and other species, this park deserves to be discovered. The seasonal bush camp is only open from June to October and its recommended you stay at least 3 nights to get the full experience. The walking safaris normally last about 4 hours per day and are led by a highly trained Zambian guide as well as an armed Zambia Wildlife Authority guard. Accommodations are six chalets all overlooking the Mwaleshi River and as of the past two years are now a part of the Black Rhino Sanctuary, which allows visitors to live amongst the last of these critically endangered animals.
2. Anabezi Luxury Tented Camp, Zambia
Most people when they think of walking safaris think of the bare necessities but Anabezi Luxury Tented Camp is changing that. Although this company offers vehicle safaris as well, they are well-known for their walking safaris. At base camp visitors will be treated to swimming pools, a large game viewing deck, two large common decks with fireplaces, and large luxurious tents that feature indoor and outdoor bathrooms, teak beds, private deck with pool and beautiful furnishings. Experienced guides will take visitors through the surrounding areas on foot exploring the different flora and wildlife by daylight. Or choose to take a safari by canoe, with a guide and explore the wildlife on the riverbank as you paddle gently downstream. This luxury safari is the perfect mix of walking, canoeing and vehicle guided treks.
1. Nkuringo Walking Safaris, Uganda/Rwanda
Developed in 2007 as a sustainable tourism initiative, Nkuringo Walking Safaris pairs incredible guides with groups of visitors in a multi-day trek to view some of the most beautiful animals in the world, gorillas. Join one of many walking safaris that this company offers, including a 10 day journey that takes visitors to Bwindi The impenetrable Forest that is home to mountain gorillas. Participants of this safari will stay overnight in tents, dine on delicious food and witness some of the most amazing creatures in the forests, including the Golden Monkey. This is not your typical walking safari where treks only last a few hours, in some cases you will be required to walk upwards of 8 hours and therefore participants must be in good shape. In return, you will be treated to an experience of a lifetime.
Africa’s Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is one of the most famous parks in the world and the ultimate destination for game drives or witnessing the astounding, annual Great Migration. Boundless plains punctuated with spiky acacia trees, Serengeti kopjes, hippo and crocodile-laden rivers, and a landscape home to the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo, and elephants) and more than 475 bird species–it’s no wonder the Serengeti precedes its reputation as a wildlife haven. Overnighting in a safari tent under the stars can be an exhilarating experience itself .
9. Book a Game Drive
Games drives are the quintessential experience in Serengeti National Park and hands-down the best way to catch sight of the Big Five along with scores of other animals and absorb the magic of the plains. The options are endless it seems when searching for the right drive (be sure to do your research and catch up on plenty of reviews before booking). Making a sight-seeing priority list is a great way to narrow your focus down to what you want to see–not all areas of the park are the same and some take longer to get to than others. Roads are rough and distances long so visitors should note that the African massage is almost inevitable at some point. Professional guides can make a great trip into a fantastic one with their skill for spotting wildlife and explaining the ecosystem and animals in depth.
8. Explore the Serengeti Visitor Center
Visitors’ centers can be a treasure trove of information but sometimes get left out of the picture because so many are very underwhelming. The Serengeti Visitor Center features a walking path for self-guided walks where exhibits and detailed signs educate on Serengeti history, its wildlife, and the ecosystem. There’s also a very good chance of spotting wildlife on route and a wealth of smaller critters like vibrant agama lizards and birds. The center also offers a really nice picnic area with tables with thatch umbrellas for shade, washrooms, and a gift and coffee shop at the Seronera Park headquarters. The center is a great place to stretch your legs, burn off some energy, and enjoy some insight into the history of the plains.
7. Explore a Maasai Village
The semi-nomadic Maasai people, who live in the Great Rift Valley along northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, have a long history with the Serengeti plains and ecosystem. They are East Africa’s most renowned tribe because of their villages’ close proximity to many favored game reserves, they’re dedication to traditional practices, and their vibrant and unmistakable attire. The villages, called bomas, are open to visitors–the Maasai are friendly people–who are engaged by learning about the Maasai way of life: traditions, customs, and lifestyle. A typical village visit generally includes a look at a local school, a short dance ceremony, and the chance to peruse and buy some locally made traditional handicrafts (an important source of income for the Maasai). While some visits might be fairly authentic, some can feel choreographed and commercial. This is one activity that requires some thought before committing.
6. Take a Night-Time Game Drive
The Serengeti is filled with nocturnal animals that cannot be seen during daytime game drives. Booking a night drive is the only way to see the extensive number of nocturnal animals living throughout the area include aardvarks, civets, bush babies, nightjars (birds), and maybe even some hunting predators (now that’s an incredible sight!). There are also hyena, jackals, impala, giraffes, foxes, and zebra–there’s quite a list of night-loving animals. Night drives aren’t permitted directly in the park yet some outfitters have permission to operate them on the very outskirts of the park, offering a much different perspective. Without any park fencing, the outskirts still afford great opportunity to see the likes of almost any animal found within park boundaries. The thrill of glowing eyes and the sound of wildlife at night is pretty spectacular and also a terrific way to beat the heat.
5. Witness the Moru Kopjes
The plains of central Serengeti are home to Moru kopjes that look like miniature mountains or small islets in an ocean of grass. Bushes, trees, and vines rise out of these interesting, seasoned, and massive rock formations which provide small pools of water, shade, and a necessary vantage point for hunters like cheetahs, lions, and leopards. The Moru kopjes are the most popular and most often visited kopjes, some which are adorned with paintings created by cattle herding Maasai. On game drives, guides are usually quick to point out the kopjes–grab a pair of binoculars and take a look as they’re a great place to spot not only big cats but small mammals too. Kopjes are also a particularly favored spot of the black rhino and the kopjes are the best spot in Serengeti National Park to see them.
4. Hear the Call of the Wild
Staying overnight in safari tent can be an exceptional experience if sleeping outdoors isn’t unnerving. Rustling elephants, chirping crickets, jackal’s yelping, cries of African eagles, and the mighty roar of lions is just the beginning of the magical sounds to be heard when overnighting in the Serengeti. A basic tent will set you back approximately $50 USD for the campsite and accommodation or pay up to $1000 USD per night for the ultimate luxury tents with Egyptian cotton sheets, luxe furnishings, and a cook on hand–the location means much more than the tent though so going basic is good enough. There are plenty of to choose from: you can get settled after a day of game driving and enjoy a bush dinner onsite under the stars, and even take a night drive afterwards–choices broad and so is everyone’s idea of a perfect safari experience.
3. Visit Olduvai Gorge
In the Arusha region in the eastern part of the Serengeti Plains is Olduvai Gorge, a paramount paleoanthropological location where human fossils and ancient tools dating back more than two million years were discovered by famous anthropologist Louis Leakey in 1929. This discovery is said to have been invaluable in expanding our understanding of Human evolution. The extensive gorge was excavated thoroughly and more than 60 fossil remains of human ancestors were discovered. The gorge is located in the Great Rift Valley, a plummeting ravine spanning s48 kilometers in length–its just over 40 kilometers from another significant archaeological point called Laetoli where volcanic ash has preserved ancient human footprints. Just a few kilometers south of the park’s border, Olduvai Gorge is a handy place to stop for anyone traveling between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
2. Take a Balloon Safari Over the Plains
One of the best ways for an aerial view of Serengeti National Park is to take a hot air balloon to the skies. The entire, magnificent park expanse is in sight, albeit, for a hefty price with the added “bonus” of a glass of champagne and a full breakfast. Hot air balloons take off at dawn–a great time to see lots of movement on the ground. The rides aren’t too long but entirely worth it if you’ve got the means. Leaving at dawn, riders are afforded a phenomenal view as the sun rises over the plains and comes to an end when the sun starts really heating up. As it peaks out over the landscape, the balloon will come down and level but with the treetops for n excellent view of the animals before they seek shelter from the heat of the sun.
1. Observe the Great Migration
If planning a visit to Serengeti National Park to see the Great Migration at Mara River (the most dramatic event) is in any way possible, make it happen. This fantastic spectacle is a migration of herds of millions of ungulates (hoofed animals) including zebras, wildebeests, gazelle, and impala. It is do-or-die for the weakest and most unlucky can get dragged down by crocodiles, pulled from herds by predators, or just too young or feeble to complete the journey. This natural and epic occurrence isn’t a one-time show but a cyclical, never-ending event that begins with calving season, then to searching for grasses, and on to mating. Then herds return to their point of origin in southern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Be sure to let your guide know you want to see it since timing and movement are heavily dependent on weather and herds can be unpredictable.
Age is just a mind set but your body, on the other hand, can deal out something a little less easygoing than attitude when you start getting up in numbers. While there’s really no ideal age to get up and take a crack at some of the world’s most adventurous destinations, tackling some of the following trips can be a lot easier in your 20s than in later years, especially when you might have a family in tow. Being single, young, and without boatloads of responsibility makes these endeavors some of the best to take in your 20s.
7. Mountain Bike Lake Tahoe’s Rim Trail
Encircling North America’s biggest alpine lake, Tahoe Rim Trail spans more than 260 kilometers and offers some of the best vistas from any single track. With more than 128 kilometers open to mountain bikers, Tahoe Rim Trail presents an epic ride with the track between Spooner Summit and Tahoe Meadows one of the best riding trails in the country. Bring your A-game here, where fast descents and gritty, skyward climbs bring a heart to the brink while offering rewards of spectacular Nevada desert views. Beginning at Spooner Lake campground, ride nine miles until splitting off to adjacent Flume Trail, a 35 kilometer run which technically isn’t part of the trail but is the Rim’s signature ride. When the lake comes in to view, the scene is breathtaking–keep your eyes on the single track though and stop to let them wander across the great landscape.
6. Explore Namibia’s Skeleton Coast
On Namibia’s North Atlantic Ocean coastline is the Skeleton Coast, referred to by the Portuguese as The Gates of Hell and by Namibia’s bushmen as The Land God Made in Anger. The name stems from the book Skeleton Coast, written by John Henry March in 1944. It chronicled the Dunedin Star shipwreck of 1942, just one of many floundering off the Namib Desert Coast for the treacherous, rocky conditions. The landscape is barren, desolate, and stories abound of seafarers wandering endlessly in search of water and food. If you’re not a sailor, you’ve got nothing to worry about, only a surreal environment best known for the scattered bones of seals and whales, and possibly even a few ancient human remains. The Skeleton Coast is one of the most remote areas in southern Africa. Adventure tours take groups through, exploring the world’s biggest sand dunes, tracking endangered Black Rhinos and elephants on foot through the desert, and meeting Namibia’s indigenous tribes.
5. Climb Huayna Potosi, Bolivia
A mountain climbing trip in your 20s is somewhat a rite of passage so why not aim for Bolivia’s Huayna Potosi, a 20,000-foot high mountain surpassing all the U.S.A’s highest peaks by at least a mile. Huayna Potosi is in Cordilla Real and though to climb it you’ll need ice axes and crampons, you won’t need any other technical experience, just basic equipment. Choose one of dozens of guided trips to Potosi in Paz, where you can’t pass a door front without someone shouting a climbing deal at you. The most common route is a no-nonsense glacier ascent. The first day is usually spent setting up camp, hiking to the glacier base, and practicing a variety of techniques, from walking to rescue. Day two is go time, but it’s on day three, when the peak is reached that the rewards are reaped with astonishing views of La Paz, Lake Titicaca, jungle valleys, and the entire Cordillera Real expanse.
4. Yacht Week
Yacht Week requires no special skills–there are no glaciers to scale, mountain bikes to ride, or anything that takes more than just having a good time. Yacht Week is a seven-day adventure aboard a luxury yacht, hanging out in the trendiest spots, and exploring the best place to get a tan. It’s really quite perfect for anyone in their 20s. First, you choose a destination: Croatia, the British Virgin Islands, Italy, Greece, or Thailand. Next you choose a yacht type and then begin the journey with a boatload of friends and international personalities. On each of the seven days, a new destination is reached, with up to 20 yachts in tow, and every night, all the Yacht Week people party together at exclusive events. You don’t even need to know how to sail, though bonus points if you do because you won’t have to pay for a skipper.
3. Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Started in 1986 by two friends who burned an effigy on a beach during the Summer Solstice, Burning Man has grown through the years to become one of the biggest and most unique events in the United States, from a mere few hundred people throughout the 1980s to more than 60,000 people in 2015. The event is based on ten specific principles.“Burners” are inspired by the values echoed through these principles and endeavor to pursue a more connected and creative existence. How this is actually achieved is what’s so incredible about Burning Man. Tens of thousands of people gather to create “Black Rock City,” a makeshift society solely based on self-reliance, art, and self-expression. Each year there is an annual art theme, scores of special events, creative circles, and of course, the burning of the man on the final day within the temporary community. This is the place to completely let go of inhibitions.
2. Motorbike through Vietnam Highlands
Riding a motorcycle through Vietnam isn’t an act of madness, nor one of bravery. Vietnam’s cities do have some crazy, hard-to-manage roads but all you really have to know is how to cross a road in the country and the motorcycle part all slips into place. If there’s a gap in the road, traffic will swarm there. Once you learn that, and how to take it slow, everything is so much less daunting. One great route is to begin in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), explore the Mekong Delta via a boat ride, and continue on through the Vietnamese highlands by motorcycle. Make your way up and down the gorgeous countryside, stay in friendly, traditional villages, and meet like-minded people en route. Independent travelers can rent or buy a motorbike easily (if you buy one, it’s no different than haggling over a used car and you can easily offload it on another potential sightseer, often for what you paid).
1. Trek to Machu Picchu via the Sacred Valley
If pleasantly meandering, centuries-old trekking paths between traditional Peruvian villages sounds good, read on. If you’re yearning for a look at the alpine ruins of Machu Picchu, taking the alternative hiking route through the stunning Sacred Valley is the way to go. Yes, the Inca Trail is a classic and it’s definitely an incredible route but today, with no independent treks permitted, all you’ll see is mostly large groups of tourists ambling their way forward, with porters lugging their gear. But where the Inca Trail is a solid four to five day hike, the path through the Sacred Valley is ten, with about six hours of solid hiking each day at altitudes crossing mountain passes at well over 13,000 feet. Though it sounds a little rough, it’s a beautiful walk for anyone even moderately fit. The best part is the chance to explore and visit the village of Cachiccata and many other small, Peruvian alpine villages.
All-inclusive vacations are undeniably easy; all you have to do is show up and every need is catered to, without you having to open your wallet. Typical amenities include endless buffets and drinks but it can indeed go beyond that. Follow along as we explore 10 over the top all-inclusive amenities you don’t want to miss!
10. Fireplace Butler, New Mexico
Having a fireplace in your hotel room is one of the most romantic touches, but lighting that fire and getting it to stay lit can quickly kill the mood. Luckily for the guests at the Four Seasons Resort Ranch Encantado in Santa Fe New Mexico, there is a fireplace butler. All guests need to do is request a visit from this expert and your butler will arrive at your door dressed in outdoor gear and a red flannel hat, making sure he looks the part. The fireplace butler will go on to light the fire for you and serve you hot chocolate or steaming apple cider in charming camping mugs. And you thought you had heard of every kind of butler.
9. Complimentary Porsche, California
If you feel like going for one heck of a joy ride, make sure to head over to Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in California where you can take out a Porsche for the cost of nothing. Through an exclusive partnership, the resort is able to offer guests a complimentary vehicle for the day. The concierges are well versed in suggesting where to take this powerful car and feel free to keep it until the evening. For those high rollers who actually fall in love with the car, there is a Porsche certified concierge on site to speak with about taking one of these bad boys home. Whether you’ve got the kids, want the convertible or just need an excuse to test one out, this resort has you covered.
8. Extensive Rare Book Collection, Kenya
For any book lover out there, the chance to see an extensive manuscript collection from some of the finest writers is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately there is one resort in Kenya that not only offers an incredible eco-safari adventure but also a library full of unpublished letters, diary entries and unique photographs. Guests at the Segera Retreat will discover artifacts from Charles Darwin, Theodore Roosevelt, David Livingstone, Ernest Hemingway and more. This unique conservation retreat belongs to German entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz who stocked the library full of these priceless artifacts, as well as filling the resort with his personal art collection and vintage antiques. Nightly rates start at $1,070 per person per night and include meals, drinks, retreat activities and access to these rare and priceless books.
7. Cirque de Soleil Experience, Club Med
Club Med and Cirque de Soleil have teamed up to bring resort goers the opportunity to fly high at their new fitness program titled Creactive. This dream-like playscape is a program where guests of all ages can try their hand at a variety of artistic and acrobatic activities. Activities include trapeze, tight rope, aerial silk, trampoline, juggling and more. There will be no jumping through hoops to sign up for this program as it is included with the room rate at Club Med in Punta Cana. This one of a kind circus experience is under the direct supervision of dedicated trainers and the activities are inspired by the 20 plus productions that take place all over the world. Dedicated to bringing circus and happiness to the world, if you have ever wanted to fly high, this is the place to do so.
6. Extensive Wine Collections, Singita, Africa
Singita is the proud operator of 12 lodges and camps, in five regions across three countries in Africa and is at the forefront of luxury safari experiences. Therefore it should come as no surprise that their wine collections are both incredible and tailored to match each and every dish. The brand’s wine collection in fact may just come in second, perhaps only to seeing the incredible wildlife in Africa. For each lodge the selection is handpicked and although every wine on the list in included in the price; one won’t go wrong trusting the daily pairings. Lodges offer the majority of their red wines at five years and older and there certainly won’t be any typically house chardonnay on the menu. Sommeliers are on hand at each lodge, not only picked for their wine knowledge but also their travel experience, personality and love for the African bush land. Guests won’t find a more incredible experience, complete with outstanding wine anywhere else in the world.
5. Baby/Family Concierge, World Wide
More and more all-inclusive resorts, especially smaller boutique ones are getting on board with including a baby or family concierge with the packages. These personal concierges are devoted to your family’s needs including walkie-talkies to keep in constant touch with one another, cookies and milk turn down service and specialized activities for your family. Some resorts offer play pens, bottle warmers, customized “kids” mini fridges in the rooms, cribs, change tables, baby bath robes, strollers and more. The Paradisus Resorts even offer private pools and beach areas with valet service, a VIP lounge with private check in and a bath time fun program before bed. If you are looking to have all the help you can want, make sure to check out the resorts that really offer it all in terms of childcare.
4. Tennis Academy, Club Med
Club Med has once again stepped up their game in terms of the amenities offered in their all-inclusive packages by offering the Club Med Tennis Academy at select resorts. Guests of all ages will have access to daily, weekly and full-time tennis programs all year round, run by top coaches. At Sandpiper Bay guests will have access to morning and/or afternoon sessions, with a focus on skills, weight training, stroke productions and match play. Players also get the chance to train with the best players and play full-length matches against one another. From kids to adults, beginners to experts, there is a tennis activity for anyone at Club Med.
3. Cooking Classes, Karisma Hotels and Resorts
Karisma’s all inclusive resorts are ultra luxurious and offer incredible personalized service to each and every guest. A favorite amenity of guests here are the cooking classes that are included in your holiday. The focus here is on seasonal cuisine and local produce and this educational experience is meant to teach guests about the joys of food and cooking. Guests will work together with experienced chefs to create incredible tasting dishes. At the end of each class guests are invited to enjoy the dishes they created as well as sipping on complimentary wine. If wine is more your style, be sure to check out the wine tastings that are offered by the knowledgeable sommeliers, or take an interactive tequila tasting class where you will learn the history and basics of tequila. With resorts located across Mexico, it is easy to find your perfect cooking vacation.
2. A Temporary Closet, Berlin
If you have forgotten that little black dress and you happen to be at the Hotel de Rome in Berlin, there is no need to go out and buy another one. That is because this hotel offers Schumacher designer dresses at no extra charge. The Schumacher shop is located just a few minutes away from the hotel and in the snap of a finger; a private shopping trip will be arranged for you. Guests should be aware that they will have to return the dresses, and hopefully no red wine will end up on it. Whether it is a cocktail dress, evening gown or something more elaborate, Schumacher has got you covered. This is one amenity that we think other hotels and resorts need to get on board with!
1. Private Submarine Rides, Fiji
It might just be the absolute coolest hotel perk and guests of the Laucala Island Resort in Fiji can have the chance to experience a ride in the resorts personal submarine. What cost a guest $2,000 a few short years ago is now included in the price of an all-inclusive package. The futuristic two-seater submarine called DeepFlight Super Falcon is capable of diving up to 1,500 feet down. This winged submarine flies through the water more like a sea creature than a boat and features 360-degree viewing capabilities through its acrylic domes. Guests of the resort can enjoy a one hour trip with the pilot of the sub where they can expect to see an abundance of coral reef and marine life including clown fish, turtles and leopard sharks. Room rates here start at about $4,600 a night and include not only a submarine ride but spa treatments, golfing, butler service and other extreme amenities.
Thundering water, “smoking” water—these are just a couple of the ways people around the world have conceptualized waterfalls. No matter where in the world you live, you have a good idea of what a waterfall is. In all shapes and sizes, these landmarks and their majesty have captured the imagination of generations. The world is filled with amazing waterfalls and while picking a waterfall destination is never the wrong choice, there are some that are must-see locations—like the ones on this list. From highest to largest to widest, you should put the waterfalls down on your bucket list.
10. Ebor Falls, Australia
Named for a nearby town, Ebor Falls are a cascade-type waterfall formation on the Guy Fawkes River in the New England area of New South Wales, Australia. They are situated about 23 miles northeast of Wollomombi on the Waterfall Way, one of Australia’s most scenic drives. The upper falls plummet 115 meters in 2 cascades, while the lower falls, about 600 meters downstream, plunge into a steep, forested gorge. The falls are located in Guy Fawkes River National Park, and are popular with tourists, with nearly 80,000 people visiting in 2008. Viewing platforms, as well as rest areas and walking trails, are available. Camping is available at the nearby Cathedral Rock National Park, home of Round Mountain, about 6 kilometers west of Ebor. Ebor Falls have longer been recognized as a site for recreation and preservation; they were first protected in 1895.
9. Gocta Cataracts, Peru
We like to think that there’s nothing left to discover on this planet of ours, but as the case of the Gocta Cataracts proves, nothing could be further from the truth. The Gocta Cataracts, about 430 miles northwest of Lima, the Peruvian capital, were a well-kept secret until 2005 when an expedition by Stefan Ziemendorff brought the falls onto the world stage. Ziemendorff convinced the Peruvian government to measure the falls’ height—a staggering 2,530 feet, making it one of the tallest in the world (although its exact ranking is disputed). Since discovery, the Peruvian government has developed the waterfall as a tourist attraction, building a hotel 6 miles from the base of the falls. Hiking trails and horse paths allow tourists to access the falls—which are said to be haunted by a beautiful mermaid. Given the falls’ altitude, at over 7,000 feet, clouds sometimes obscure the view.
8. Humboldt Falls, New Zealand
New Zealand’s mountains are now famous, and where there are mountains, there’s a good chance you’ll find waterfalls. That holds true in the island-nation: in Hollyford Valley, in Fiordland, you’ll find the spectacular Humboldt Falls. The falls are nearly 1,000 feet high, with the water cascading down the rock face in 3 distinct steps. The largest of the 3 drops is 440 feet, almost 50% of the falls’ total height. The falls are a horsetail-type waterfall, and, despite their height, are relatively easy to reach. The trail from the falls, along Hollyford Road, is about 600 meters long and will take you about half-an-hour to navigate. The grade is relatively easy, allowing visitors to get close enough to glimpse some spectacular views of the waters of the Hollyford River rushing into the gorge below.
7. Trümmelbach Falls, Switzerland
Where there are mountains, there are waterfalls. Nowhere is that more true than in the soaring heights of the Alps. As snow and glaciers melt, the resulting water flows down the steep inclines, resulting in some spectacular feats of nature. The Trümmelbach is one of those feats: it drains the glacier defiles of Switzerland’s 3 most famous mountains, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Up to 20,000 liters of water pass through the falls per second. The Trümmelbach is a series of 10 falls and they are actually located within the mountain, twisting and turning through the rockface as they rush to lower ground. The falls have been made accessible to tourists by tunnel-lift and they are illuminated for viewing. Viewing the glacial water plunging through the “Corkscrew Chute” is a glimpse into some of nature’s most secretive workings.
6. Huangguoshu Waterfall, China
The name of this stunning Chinese waterfall means “Yellow-fruit Tree Waterfalls.” Located on the Baishui River, it is one of the largest waterfalls in the whole country and in East Asia. It stands 255 feet high, with the main fall boasting a 220-foot drop. The falls span a width of approximately 330 feet. They are an example of a segmented block waterfall formation. The falls are considered a natural tourist draw and have been rated as an AAAAA scenic area by the China National Tourism Administration. Tourism is served by a special line of buses and 3 viewing platforms offering different views of the falls. Another attraction is Shuliandong, the Water-Curtain cave, a 440-foot cave that formed naturally at the back of the falls. There are several other waterfalls in the area, about 28 miles southwest of Anshun city.
5. Dettifoss, Iceland
Dettifoss is the largest waterfall in Iceland, which says something as this island-nation is a place of many waterfalls. It’s also reputed to be one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, with an average flow of 193 cubic meters per second. The falls are 330 feet wide and plunge 150 feet into the Jökulsárglijúfur canyon. Located in Vatnajökull National Park in the northeast of the island, Dettifoss is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River, whose waters originate at the Vatnajökull glacier. A new road, finished in 2011, allows better visitor access. The waterfall is located on Iceland’s popular Diamond Circle tourist route, which also includes Húsavík and Lake Myvatn. The falls are a multi-step formation, which is a series of waterfalls of roughly the same size, each with its own sunken plunge pool.
4. Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina
Located along the border between Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu Falls are a sight to behold as they stretch along for more than 1.5 miles. Depending on the water level, there may be between 150 and 300 smaller waterfalls, most of them on the Argentine side of the border, with plunges between 197 and 269 feet. The main attraction is the Devil’s Throat, a U-shaped waterfall that spans nearly 3,000 feet. Perhaps the best feature of Iguzau’s structure is that it allows visitors to be surrounded by waterfalls up to 260 degrees at a time—not quite encircled, but close. Iguazu is wider and discharges more water than the equally impressive Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Tourism in the area is well developed, and the falls can be reached from either the Brazilian or Argentine side, as well as from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.
3. Angel Falls, Venezuela
If you’ve seen Pixar’s Up, you’ve seen Angel Falls. The Venezuelan waterfall is well known to people around the world. Part of its fame comes from the fact that it is indeed the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall—the plunge is an astounding 2,648 feet. The official height given by the Venezuelan state and UNESCO is 3,212 feet, which includes sloped cascades, rapids below the drop and another plunge downstream. The falls were given their current name in honor of Jimmie Angel, an American aviator. In 2009, the Venezuelan president indicated his intention to give the indigenous name to official status. Although the indigenous people were aware of the falls before Angel’s 1933 flight, they did not visit the area and it was not known to the outside world. Today, the falls are a popular tourist attraction, despite the difficulty in reaching them through isolated stretches of jungle.
2. Niagara Falls, Canada/USA
Along the Canadian-American border lies Niagara Falls, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. The Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side, named for their shape, are larger and more renowned than the (still impressive) American falls. The distinctive color of the water flowing over the drop is a by-product of finely ground rock dust and dissolved salts, which occur in the water because of the erosive power of the Niagara River and the falls. Currently, erosion moves the falls back about 1 foot per year. The falls were already a huge tourist attraction in the late 19th century, and they continue to be a popular attraction today, with many hotels, casinos and excursions available to visitors. It is also a popular location for honeymooners and for film and television.
1. Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe
Located near the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, Victoria Falls is the widest waterfall in the world, which results in the largest sheet of falling water. While other falls may be wider, many of these actually contain several distinct falls; Victoria Falls is a single flow. The falls are viewable from both the Zambian side and the Zimbabwean side; traditionally, the Zimbabwean side was more popular with tourists, but recently the number of visitors to the Zambian side has been increasing. The Zimbabwean government has considered renaming the falls to Mosi-oa-Tonya, the indigenous name for the formation. The name means “the smoke that thunders.” The falls are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, although extensive tourist development in the area has led the UN to reconsider this designation. Nonetheless, the falls remain majestic to see at peak flow in April. In the dry season, it is possible to walk through the First Gorge.
It’s that time of year again, when world renowned guidebook publisher and travel advocate Lonely Planet publishes their predictions and recommendations for the coming year of travel in what’s know as the “Best in Travel 2016” The entire guidebook is filled with top 10 lists with varying themes from Best Animal Adventures to Most Accessible Destinations. In this article however, we will take a look at Best Value. Lonely Planet knows that no matter how deep your pockets are, every traveler loves a deal, and for some, traveling on a strict budget isn’t just a lifestyle; it’s an art form. So without further delay, let’s take a look at the 10 best value destinations for 2016:
10. Western Australia
Typically Australia has been a place that for many, seemed out of reach if not for its geographic location than for its high costs due to a strong Australia dollar. But recently, the AUD has taken a dive, especially in comparison to the US dollar, while that means many Australians might be forced to limit their overseas travel plans, it also means that for many North Americans, a trip to Australia is cheaper than its ever been. Western Australia in particular offers better value than other parts of the country but with all the Australian culture and scenery one could want.
Not straying too far from the number #10 destination, the Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste occupies half of the island of Timor north of Australia in the Timor sea. This beautiful, lesser-known country is surrounded by coral reefs teaming with marine life of all shapes and sizes. Lonely Planet suggests venturing outside of the country’s capital of Dili and all its pricey international hotels and checking out the bargain beach shacks that can be found on the islands pristine beaches. If you’re not afraid to blaze your own trail and mix with the locals, Timor-Leste might be just the deal you were looking for.
8. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast
While the west side of Costa Rica has been sufficiently explored by tourists, expats and Americans looking for their next vacation home, the east side of the country is still left mostly to the locals. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has plenty to offer in comparison to the well known towns of the east but with a much less touristy vibe, which also translates to better deals as well. The town of Tortuguero is famous for nesting sea turtles and the reefs of Manzanillo make for an excellent dive spot, but one of the biggest draws is the famous Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary located south of Limón.
7. Québec City, Canada
If a trip to Europe has been on your wish list but you lack the time and funds to make this a reality, Lonely Planet suggests North Americans head to Québec City. No, it’s definitely not Europe but they suggest it has enough of a foreign francophone vibe and old world charm to make you feel like you’re a long way from home. The city’s Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with the cobblestone streets, historic buildings and little French bistros, you might just get that taste of Europe for less than you thought.
6. Galicia, Spain
Being a well visited country by many tourists, you wouldn’t think Spain would have a lot of deals left to be had, but head to the country’s northwest region of Galicia and you’ll find rocky coastline and villages relatively unexplored by tourists. Lonely Planet says that the value of this region comes not only from being a place relatively unexplored by tourists but also from the quality of meat, cheese and seafood that can be found in the many tapas bars throughout the Galicia region. They also suggest booking self-catering accommodations to save money even further.
5. Bosnia and Hercegovina
It is no secret that Europe has a bit of a reputation with travelers as being a pricey place to explore. While that is definitely true of the more major cities like Rome, Venice, London and Paris, it’s the lesser known cities and countries that offer the best value. Hence, the #5 entry on this list: Bosnia and Hercegovina. The Balkan country encompasses all the major values you look for in budget travel including inexpensive accommodations and cheap eats and its historic cities of Sarajevo and Mostar offer the kind of history and charm you’d expect to pay a price for.
4. New Mexico
Even with travel to America looking rather expensive to everyone except those who live there, Lonely Planet stresses the value that can still be found in the state of New Mexico. Cheap eats, affordable accommodations and free activities and attractions abound in this outdoor lovers paradise. With dry sunny conditions almost guaranteed, there are few better states where you can cram in as much time in the great outdoors (an activity that’s essentially free of charge.) Take a Breaking Bad tour in Albuquerque, hike the Apline forest or explore a free wild hot spring. The possibilities for value are endless in this state.
3. East Africa
Thanks to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, many tourists are sufficiently scared of the continent as a whole, and thus bookings for 2016 are on the low side. You can probably guess that means good deals are readily available for travel to the continents safer half; East Africa. Lonely Planet advises that the cities of London, Paris and Madrid are hundreds of miles closer to the outbreak region geographically than East Africa’s prime tourist spots are, and reminds travelers just how large a continent this is. So if you’ve ever felt compelled to have an African animal encounter, or explore Africa’s spectacular scenery, the time to head to places like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is now.
2. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam
Backpackers have known for years that Vietnam is a budget travelers best friend and a recent study by priceoftravel.com confirms the fact placing Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi third and second in a list of the cheapest destinations in Asia. Lonely Planet says that in both cities, $20 USD or less per day will get you food, lodging and sights but the guidebook publishers say at that rate you’ll be living like a local (which we say isn’t a bad thing!) But if you want an experience that’s a sight step up, your authentic Vietnamese experience still won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Lonely Planet says this year’s #1 best value destination will almost seem like the promised land compared to other popular European destinations. That’s because your Euros go a little farther in Estonia, a Northern European country where Nordic meets old-world Eastern European. If you’ve been getting around Europe by sleeping in hostel dorm rooms, you’ll be happy to know that upgrading to a hotel room of your own will seem quite affordable here, as will the food, drinks and nightlife. It’s not like there’s nothing to see either; the preserved Old Town in the capital of Tallinn has history and museums galore while the enchanting forests of Lahemaa National Park will amaze any traveler.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
There are few more beautifully exotic destinations on the globe than Seychelles Islands. This archipelago is made up of 115 coral and granite islands and sits between 480km and 1600km off of the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. First settled by the French in the 1700s, it was later claimed by the British. During the 1800s the Seychelles set up a vibrant trade settlement, with the establishment of numerous different plantations, which contributed largely to its population growth over the following century. The Seychelles were granted independence in 1976 and remain a member of the British Commonwealth. Today, it is a major draw for tourists. It is lush, tranquil and opulently beautiful, with pristine white sand beaches, unique topography set against lush tropical rainforests, and miles of turquoise waters winding through this island chain. It’s also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
1. Seychelles 101
This diverse group of islands fall into two categories: the inner islands are tall and mostly made from granite. The outer islands lie more flat, and consist of cays, reefs and atolls (an atoll is a ring or horseshoe shaped coral reef, usually with a lagoon in the center. They usually sit atop an extinct seamount or volcano). In terms of accommodations in this group of islands, only 16 of the 115 islands currently have hotels, with a wide range of choices, from luxury resorts to guest houses. In terms of getting there (and getting around) there are a number of direct flights from Johannesburg to Mahe International Airport in Seychelles’ capital, Victoria. To get between islands, there are domestic flights, charters and ferries.
Mahe is the largest inhabited island in the Seychelles. It has over 60 beaches as well as a mountainous countryside that is covered in rainforests and jungles. Mahe is appealing because of its variety; travelers can relax on their choice of beaches or explore caves and coves, discovering bays and waterfalls. A hike up the mountainous terrain can be grueling, but will offer views that make the climb well worth the effort and then some. Kayaking and snorkeling are popular here as well. The island is populated with small towns and villages, great for wandering and exploring. There is a decidedly Creole influence on Mahe, reflected in the food, architecture and culture.
3. Morne Seychellois National Park
Morne Seychellois National Park is the jewel of the mountainous interior of Mahe, with lush vegetation and absolutely staggering views of the rest of the island and surrounding waters. This park covers a remarkable 20 percent of the entire Mahe land mass and is comprised of a wide variety of vegetation and terrain. Think mangrove forests on the coastlines that climb up through jungle covered mountains to reach the highest peak in the country. The park is only accessible through walking trails, so a hike through this lush part of the world is immersive and connective with the natural beauty that surrounds you- without distraction.
Praslin is the second largest island in the Seychelles and promotes an unpretentious, chilled out vibe. Like its island neighbors, Praslin rolls with miles of forest on the interior, wrapped with miles of white sand on the coastline and has loads of beaches to choose from. Two of Praslin’s beaches (Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette) are frequent members of top beach lists in the world. Golfers will want to make Praslin their island of choice, with the only 18 hole championship golf course in the Seychelles at the Constance Lemuria hotel.
5. Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve
The story goes with the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin Island that the vegetation is so lush, colorful and varied that it was once seriously considered to be the original Garden of Eden. In the midst of this expansive reserve is a natural palm forest, preserved in its near original state for centuries. This palm forest is also home to the “Coco de Mer” (which is the largest seed in the plant kingdom). The Coco de Mer, which resembles a female pelvis in shape, was considered proof that this reserve was indeed the Garden of Eden by British General Gordon. This reserve is a UNESCEO World Heritage Site.
6. La Digue
This lush paradise with coastline characterized by sandy beaches, inlets and secluded bays, set against a backdrop of rolling green hills populated with jungles and towering trees is like a snapshot from a travel brochure. It’s that pretty. This is the third largest of the Seychelles inhabited islands, but feels intimate and secluded. There is no airport on La Digue, but is accessible by ferry and private boat. It’s not far from Mahe and Praslin, so many people either use La Digue as a home base to island hop, or come for a day trip. There are a number of hotels here to suit any budget. Cycling is the best way to see this small island, soaking in the outdoors, and enjoying the ocean breezes.
7. Anse Source D’Argent
Located on the south side of La Digue, Anse Source D’Argent is one of the Seychelles’ most beautiful beaches, hands down (and that’s quite a title, given the striking beauty of the dozens of Seychelle beaches). It is reportedly the most photographed beach in the world, and understandably so. It’s a total reflection of what you see in your mind’s eye when you picture tropical paradise, beach-style. It’s not just the rolling white sands that meet up with clear turquoise water; the beach is buttressed with sculptured granite boulders that have literally been shaped by the hands of time. As far as photo ops go, it’s hard to replicate the quiet, natural beach beauty captured here.
8. Aldabra Atoll
This is another of the Seychelles UNESCO sites. The Aldabra Atoll is the world’s largest raised Coral Atoll (an atoll is a ring or horseshoe shaped coral reef, usually with a lagoon in the centre. They usually sit atop an extinct seamount or volcano). This atoll is comprised of four coral islands that encircle a lagoon. The geographic composition of this atoll has made it isolated which has removed it from human influence, which impacted its native ecosystem. As a result, there are well over 150,000 giant tortoises inhabiting this area.