The World’s Scariest Stairs

Stairways have the ability to be beautiful, graceful and elegant but not all stairs are created equally. There are hundreds of thousands of staircases around the world that are downright scary, for many different reasons. Some have caused death, many are falling apart and others lead to eerie experiences. From the depths of Paris to the peaks in Yosemite to the tops of temples; here are 12 of the world’s scariest staircases.

12. Inca Stairs, Peru

The Inca Stairs leads up to one of the most famous photographed peaks, carved into the side of Huayna Picchu and they are among the scariest stairs in the world. If you want to ascend these stairs you will have to be one of the first 400 visitors to the ruins, as in recent years the park has capped the number of climbers.

A total of about 600 feet of steep granite rocks create the stairs and in recent years metal chains have been added to some parts that are especially dangerous. The stairs lead to the Moon Temple, one of the least visited worship places in Machu Picchu and many do not make it all the way up them as they are that scary. The views from the top are surreal, overlooking the Urubamba River and the ruins below.

11. Moaning Cavern Stairs, California, USA

The bones of approximately 100 prehistoric humans were once found at the bottom of these stairs, in this largest single-chamber public cave in California. In order to reach this cave, that is big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty in, climbers must descend 235 stairs, 144 of which are on a spiral staircase.

This damp cave is known for its eeriness, sounds of moaning and wailing are often heard as visitors make their way down. Back in the early 1900’s before the stairs were built visitors were actually lowered into the cavern in buckets with only candles or whale oil lamps to light the way. The history of this place, along with the creepy sounds will surely make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up.

Via Pintrest

10. Cape Horn Stairs, Chile

Cape Horn is known as the last piece of land on earth before Antarctica and this tiny little piece of land is visited by few people. Most people come here to visit the Albatross Monument, a monument dedicated to the thousands of sailors that lost their lives in the treacherous seas. To climb these stairs you must first be able to get here, a harrowing thought considering only seven cruise ships disembark at the Island.

Grab your rain gear and some water as you land on the island to face 162 slippery ocean sprayed stairs. By the time you reach the top you will most likely be soaked, cold and wind whipped. The hardest part of the stairs comes at the top when the stairs flatten into tiers of wooden boardwalk, slippery, soaked and covered in mist. The reward when you climb these stairs is access to a place that few ever get to visit.

9. Sagrada Familia, Spain

It was clear when architects built this Roman Catholic Church they did not consider the number of people who would be coming here to worship. Gaudi has envisioned a forest canopy when designing the rooftop here but didn’t quite think of what the stairs would look like when more and more people came.

The spiral staircase to the top is downright scary, void of any banisters or handrails. It coils high and long against the tightly enclosed walls and at anytime hordes of people are trying to ascend and descend. Many people avoid this church simply because of the stairs and if you think are brave enough to challenge it, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

8. Flørli Stairs, Norway

These stairs pride themselves on being the longest wooden staircase on earth, made up of 4,444 steps that ascend 2,427 feet from the bottom. They start at the edge of Lysefjord and run to the top of the mountain in the small village of Flørli. The stairs run alongside the former water pipes as the now abandoned village of Flørli used to be a power plant village.

The stairs seemingly cling to the side of the mountain and provide breathtaking views all the way up. Count on questioning every creak you hear as you ascend up as these stairs, as they are both old and noisy, due in large part to the fact they are wooden. The hike up will take you anywhere from 3-5 hours and at the top, you will be rewarded with fantastic views and a history lesson from the historic hydropower hall that still exists.

Via Pulpit Rock Experience

7. Angkor Wat Temple Stairs, Cambodia

These stairs were supposedly created to be steep, in order to remind climbers that heaven is hard to reach. Therefore it seems there is no shame in hanging your head, dropping down to your hands and knees or pulling yourself up with the ropes provided to reach the uppermost temples. The stairs are actually inclined at a 70 degree angle and are known to be some of the steepest stairs in the world.

Many people have actually spoken out about these stairs, proclaiming that it’s not right to have tempting stairs in a worship area. Take extreme caution if you choose to climb these stairs as one missed step can lead to you tumbling down them, sure to cause injury and maybe even death.

6. Half Dome Stairs, California, USA

Located in Yosemite National Park, these next stairs lead up to the most iconic peak in Yosemite Valley but getting up here is only possible for about 400 people a day. Snag one of these hard to get permits between Memorial Day and October to attempt this gruesome seven mile all-incline hike. What awaits climbers is a climb up a rock face along a cable ladder, for more than 400 vertical feet. It is absolutely essential that climbers check the weather forecast before attempting this hike as people have fallen to their death.

Proper footwear and gear is a necessity and be aware that if you try and climb these stairs without a permit, you will face possible jail time and fines. Hikers will be rewarded at the top with incredible panoramic views of the Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra.

5. Catacombs, Paris

Most everyone has heard of the Catacombs, the home of the remains of more than six million people, and if visiting isn’t scary enough, one has to contend with the creepy staircases. To reach the actual catacombs visitors will have to descend 130 steps, a narrow spiral stone staircase that leaves many claustrophobic. The sun and light quickly fade away as you descend into the darkness where bones and skulls await.

There is another set of stairs that await visitors on the way out, this one made up of only 83 stairs and most people ascend them quickly, wanting to get back into the fresh air and sunlight. A dizzying spiral staircase leading to rooms of bones; yup we think that qualifies as one of the scariest sets of stairs in the world.

4. Taihang Mountains Spiral Staircase, China

Far southwest of Beijing is a 300-foot tall spiral staircase that draws visitors from all over the world. That, in fact, was the goal of this incredible staircase when it was built, to encourage visitors to come to the Taihang Mountains in Linzhou. This so called “Stairway to Heaven” is built right on the side of the mountain and offers incredible views. But not just anyone is allowed to climb this staircase.

All potential climbers here have to sign a form stating that they have no heart or lung problems and that they are under 60 years of age. Looking more like a beanstalk, this dizzying staircase is not meant for the weak and visitors who plan on going on should be in good shape. No one quite knows what will happen if you lie about your age, but we suggest sticking to the rules and getting here before you turn 60.

Via Daily Mail

3. Pailon del Diablo Waterfall, Ecuador

Translate the name of this waterfall into English and you get “The Devil’s Cauldron”, therefore it should come as no surprise that these stairs are extremely scary! They were built to blend into the landscape and at first glance, you won’t even notice them but be aware, these steps can play tricks on you. The steps themselves are made out of smooth, oversize pebbles that become slippery from the mist of the waterfalls and offer extremely little traction.

When looking down at them they create an illusion of a slippery stone slide and the chance of falling off is high. For those of you who want something to hold onto, there is a metal railing that runs the length of the stairs. Don’t depend too much on it though, it gets slippery from all the water droplets and some say it’s really not that sturdy. The view of the waterfall from the top though is totally worth trekking up and down these stairs.

2. Haiku Stairs, Oahu, Hawaii

These stairs are actually so scary that they have been banned, as in no one is allowed to use them anymore. This rickety set of 3,922 stairs lead half a mile up Oahu’s Koolau Mountain Range. These stairs were actually contrasted in 1942 by the U.S Navy as a means to install communication wires and were nicknamed the “Highway to Heaven”. Daredevil hikers quickly discovered them after WWII and started to climb them for their absolutely incredible views.

In the 1980’s the stairs were officially closed to the public due to safety reasons, although many chose to ignore it and still climbed them. Nowadays there is a guard placed at the bottom of the stairs and many of them were destroyed when a storm blew through in 2015. It is unsure what the future of these stairs is, but if they ever happen to reopen we suggest tackling them, as even though they are scary, the views are beyond words.

1. Mount Huashan Heavenly Stairs, China

It is considered one of the most dangerous walks in the world and although the name deceives you with the word “heaven”, these stairs are more like hell. No one in history has actually even counted the number of steps, perhaps they lost count as they peered over the edge and were faced with a deathly drop. The stairs are carved into a sacred Taoist mountain and go so high up into the mountainside you lose track of them.

The side stone steps are supported by a single railing in which many trekkers hang on to as they ascend up. Unfortunately, if you thought these steps were the most dangerous part, you would be wrong. What awaits climbers after these steps is a trail known as the most dangerous on earth, a horizontal walkway consisting of planks fastened to the side of the mountain with just a single chain.

Via The Beauty of Travel

The Top Destinations Being Destroyed By Tourism

More people than ever before in history are exploring beyond the boundaries of their own country to take in the incredible beauty the world has to offer. In fact, tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with over 1.1 billion people traveling internationally in 2015 alone!

While travel certainly has many economic benefits, such as providing people with jobs, it also has some negative impacts as well. For these 10 natural wonders and historic sites, the swell of tourists has begun to threaten their long-term preservation. If we’re not careful, we could destroy these precious places for good.

10. Venice, Italy

Photos By: Shutterstock

It’s no secret that Venice is sinking, and the hordes of tourists that flock there each year certainly aren’t helping. During peak season, the picturesque floating city can see upwards of 80,000 tourists per day, making it so overcrowded that some of the main tourist attractions become inaccessible. And many of these tourists are brought to the city by cruise ships, whose traffic threatens the waterways and historic areas they travel through.

9. Great Pyramids, Egypt

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Of the original Seven Wonders of the World, only the Great Pyramid of Giza remains. At the current rate of deterioration, however, it—along with the Sphinx other pyramids at the historic site—may not be around for much longer. Many decades of mass tourism to this area of Egypt has led to irreparable damage to these ancient structures, and any attempt to restore them has only led to further destruction.

8. Roman Colosseum, Italy

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The grandeur of Rome’s Colosseum is certainly not what it was when it opened in the year 80 AD. Almost 2,000 years of wear and tear has not been kind to the structure, nor have tourists, who have been caught moving or stealing stones and graffiting the remaining pillars. Although the site is now mainly piles of broken stone, it is a historic site from which there is still much to be learned and needs to be preserved and respected as such.

7. Stonehenge, United Kingdom

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The still-unexplained phenomenon that is Stonehenge draws many thousands of tourists each year. They have, unfortunately, caused quite a bit of damage to the prehistoric stones by chipping away at them, and restoration attempts have not returned them to historical accuracy. Several busy roadways that are located in close proximity also threaten the area.

6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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Proudly displayed on Cambodia’s flag, this ancient temple boasts classical style Khmer architecture and is one of the country’s top attractions. While money from tourism is used to restore the structure, it is one of the leading causes of its damage. Not just from foot traffic either; graffiti has been found on many of the walls. Unless the government takes action to limit tourist traffic, this World Heritage site could be destroyed beyond repair.

5. Antarctica

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This once-remote location is no longer quite so. The rise in cruise ship traffic has increased water pollution, threatening the continent’s coastline and the species that inhabit it. Fortunately, the Antarctic Treaty has limited the number of people on-shore to 100 at a time, and ships that carry more than 500 passengers are not allowed at any of the landing sites.

4. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

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Since being featured as a private paradise in the 2000 film The Beach, the Phi Phi islands of Thailand have become a bucket list destination for many. The pristine beaches and clear water of these virgin islands may not last for much longer, however, as the rise in tourism has attracted resort developers. It seems as though Thailand is serious about preserving their land though, as another popular tourist island, Koh Tachai, was recently closed indefinitely to tourists in order to allow the environment to rehabilitate.

3. Great Wall of China

Photo By: Shutterstock

Although it once stretched more than 5,000 miles, over the years approximately two thirds of the Great Wall of China has been destroyed. This is largely due to the thousands of tourists that walk, vandalize and graffiti it each year, but also because of environmental erosion and sections being torn down to make way for development. A lack of government funding for protection of the Great Wall mean these factors will continue to threaten it in future.

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

Photo By: Shutterstock

Located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the ancient Inca village of Machu Picchu is truly a sight to behold. It’s no wonder it tops many people’s bucket lists. But such a massive influx of visitors has threatened the preservation of this ancient archaeology; UNESCO has even considered placing it on their list of World Heritage in Danger. The country’s government currently limits the number of tourists to 2,500 per day, but even that may be too many to prevent irreparable damage.

1. Galapagos Islands

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The incredibly diverse ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands is what helped Charles Darwin develop his Theory of Natural Selection, but it is incredibly fragile to outside influence. So much so, that UNESCO placed the location on its World Heritage in Danger list in 2007. In order to preserve the land and its wildlife, many tourist restrictions have been put in place—including the requirement that a licensed guide accompany all visitors of Galapagos National Park.

10 Ecotourism Hotspots for 2016

Eco-tourism has become something of a buzzword in recent years. Some might be quick to write it off as nothing more than fancy marketing, but the trend toward “green” travel has stayed strong through 2015, with 53% of Americans looking to book green hotels, and interest in environmentally viable and sustainable tourism is likely to grow in 2016 as talks around climate change continue. So where can we expect green travelers to head off to in 2016? Here are our 10 picks for the year ahead.

10. Costa Rica

Let’s start with the tried-but-true Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a recognized leader in ecotourism, often considered a pioneer. The country’s focus on sustainability makes sense because Costa Rica’s tourism industry is heavily centered on its natural resources, including its abundant wildlife, lush mountain ecosystems and its “cloud forests.” Costa Rica’s commitment to green extends outside of the tourism industry, however; in 2007, the country committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2021 and, as of 2015, 93% of the country’s energy needs are met by renewable sources. Environmental taxes act as disincentives to polluting businesses and laws such as the 1996 Forest Law have helped reorient other industries to sustainable development. All of this means that tourists traveling to Costa Rica can feel secure knowing they’ve made an environmentally sound choice.

costa rica

9. Laos

Two decades ago, Laos was relatively low on the list of international destinations; since the 1990s, however, tourism has grown explosively, from under 100,000 visitors annually to nearly 2 million tourists every year. The relatively quick growth of the industry might lead to concerns about exploitative development and destructive mass tourism, but Laos has also developed a strong orientation toward ecotourism—perhaps fitting for a country that has adopted the slogan “Simply Beautiful.” Luang Namtha, the northernmost province in Laos, is one of the best areas for tourists looking for a trip focused on sustainability: local villages earn alternate income from offering trekking and rafting tours through the biodiverse region around the Nam Ha Protected Area and the Namtha River, which encourages preservation of the environment as an attraction for continued tourism.

Laos

8. Cambodia

Tourism in Cambodia has long been overshadowed by violence in the country. Nonetheless, tourism is the second-most important industry in the self-proclaimed “Kingdom of Wonder,” and is based on 3 key elements. One of those elements is an embarrassment of natural attractions, and nowhere is that more evident than in Koh Kong, the country’s southwestern most province. Located near the border with Thailand, the region embraces part of the Cardamom Mountains and boasts 1 of the largest forests in Southeast Asia. The area also features untouched beaches and pristine waters along its undeveloped coastline. Cambodia’s largest national park, Botum Sakor National Park, is also located in Koh Kong, along with part of the Kirirom National Park. The rugged terrain along the Tatai River has been perfect for developing sustainable tourism aimed at keeping the natural wonders of Koh Kong intact for future generations.

Cambodia

7. Greenland

There’s been plenty of discussion about Greenland lately: the country has been named one of Lonely Planet’s top travel destinations for 2016, and much of the country’s frozen landscape seems to be melting at an alarming rate. While that might seem to be a call to travelers to see Greenland before it’s “too late,” Greenland has been working on a better plan: a sustainable tourism industry. Since much of the country’s young tourism industry focuses on experiences like dog-sledding, hiking along glaciers and whale-watching, ensuring that tourism in Greenland is eco-friendly is a must. Natural Habitat’s Base Camp Greenland is one recent eco-friendly initiative; the small-group excursion takes adventurers to a carbon-neutral expedition camp at the eastern edge of Greenland’s ice sheet. While 2016 promises to be a big year for Greenland tourism, that doesn’t mean it can’t be kept green.

Greenland

6. Norway

While it might be eco-conscious Western tourists who have been a driving force in the development of sustainable tourism, the tourist industries of most Western economies are run on less eco-friendly initiatives. One country that’s pushing toward an increasingly green tourism industry is the Scandinavian country of Norway. One of Norway’s top attractions has always been its environment, most particularly its rugged mountains and stunning fjords. While the remoteness of the fjords has kept them well-protected, so too have Norway’s strict environmental regulations played a role in keeping the iconic Norwegian landscapes pristine. Ensuring a healthy environment extends outside the realm of the tourism industry, and Norway is considered a leader in environmental policy in other industries as well. That means that scenic boat tours, biking through rugged mountain terrain and wondering at the snow-capped mountain vistas of the Norwegian fjords will be activities for future tourists as well.

Norway

5. Botswana

Botswana gets the short end of the stick when it comes to African tourism; the southern African country is bordered by South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. In the ecotourism industry, Botswana is often overlooked for Kenya. Botswana, however, has its own charms: about 70% of the country is covered by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, 1 of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also located in the country. The Chobe Game Reserve is home to a large herd of free-ranging elephants and the Khama Rhino Sanctuary offers guided trekking experiences, while the Central Game Reserve offers up some of southern Africa’s most unspoiled wilderness. In terms of tourism, the industry is small, but growing in Botswana, which means that the country has had time to focus on developing sustainable initiatives.

Botswana

4. Maldives

The Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean, is a chain of 26 atolls that is threatened by rising sea levels. With this in mind, the country has been a leader in green industries, including ecotourism. The government has pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2019. The islands rely heavily on tourism, which is the largest sector of the economy. Most tourism is driven by the Maldives’ natural beauty, including extraordinary diving opportunities in clear blue waters. The islands are often promoted as a tropical resort getaway, and white sand beaches and sports like surfing and scuba diving are popular. Government policies have aimed to reduce damage to sensitive coral reefs and to make stricter laws for waste disposal, while resorts themselves have focused on recapturing wasted energy and recycling heat.

Maldives

3. Seychelles

The Seychelles is a 115-island country located off the east coast of the African continent. Tourism is the primary industry in the economy and has been since the late 20th century. Since the mid-1990s, however, the government has moved to ensure that tourist development doesn’t come at the expense of the islands’ natural environment. This has included capping the number of beds in some of the most popular destinations, such as La Digue. The islands contain a number of unique ecosystems and are home to a host of diverse plants and animals, some of which live on only 1 or 2 islands. While Seychellois culture is coming to value environmental protection, the nation is not currently committed to clean energy or a carbon-neutral plan; time will tell if the environmental conscience of the tourism industry spreads to other sectors of the economy.

Seychelles

2. Kenya

Tourism in Kenya has always been driven by its natural attractions; in recent years, visitors have been attracted to coastal beaches and game reserves, such as the expansive East and West Tsavo National Park. The country boasts 19 such national parks and game reserves, the Great Rift Valley and a stunning view of Mount Kilimanjaro. Best known for its savannas, Kenya is still most popular for safaris, but you can also visit coral reefs on the coast, along with rainforests and deserts. Ecotourism Kenya, a watchdog organization, keeps an eye on tourism and rates accommodations based on their environmental policies. Most safari outfitters now offer eco-friendly options for visitors, and many of them ensure they give back to or work on behalf of the local people, thus working toward sustainability in the industry.

Mount Kilimanjaro

1. New Zealand

New Zealand is a major destination for travelers who seek adventure; the wild, untamed and often rugged landscape offers excellent opportunities for almost all outdoor activities, from hiking to trekking to mountain climbing to surfing and diving. Given that tourism focuses largely on the natural environment, it’s little wonder that New Zealand is also invested in protecting its natural assets—the country has committed to becoming carbon neutral and markets itself as a “clean, green” playground for adventurers. The country has developed numerous walking and hiking trails, such as the internationally recognized Milford Track and the Te Araroa Trail, which spans the country. In line with the country’s presentation of itself, ecotourism initiatives have been on the rise, although there is some concern about tourism being a carbon-intensive industry, as many visitors travel huge distances to reach this remote country.

Milford Track NZ

Anthony Bourdain’s 10 Favorite Hotels in the World

Beloved American writer, traveler and culinary curator Anthony Bourdain recently published a list on his Facebook account listing his 10 favorite hotels in the world. He describes himself as a “Hotel Slut” having stayed in so many different places over the years. Certainly his busy lifestyle as a traveling foodie has taken him to some far flung places and required a lot of nights away from home. The star says “A hotel where I know immediately where I am when I open my eyes in the morning is a rare joy.” Here are his favorites:

10. The Murray Hotel -Livingston, Montana

Bouradin says that if you stay at The Murray, make sure you try to book the Peckinpah suite.

Photo by: Panoramio/juan234x
Photo by: Panoramio/juan234x

9. Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor -Siem Reap, Cambodia

Grand colonial-area hotels in Asia have a certain spot in Bourdain’s heart and this one in the ancient city of Siem Reap, Cambodia is no exception.

Photo by: Kiwi Collection
Photo by: Kiwi Collection

8. Hotel Metropole -Hanoi, Vietnam

Bourdain says he’s a huge fan of English novelist and author Graham Greene and says if the writer has stayed at a hotel (like The Metropole) chances are he will stay there too.

Photo by: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Photo by: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

7. The Edgewater Hotel -Seattle, Washington

The luxury Edgewater Hotel in Seattle’s downtown sits right on the waterfront. Bourdain loves watching ships slide right past your room as you look west over the water.

Photo by: The Edgewater
Photo by: The Edgewater

6. Park Hyatt -Tokyo, Japan

This posh Tokyo hotel was featured in the 2003 film Lost in Translation and as a film geek, Bourdain can’t pass up the opportunity to stay here when he visits the city.

Photo by: Park Hyatt Tokyo
Photo by: Park Hyatt Tokyo

5. Hotel Oloffson -Port au Prince, Haiti

With all his television series, books and other entrepreneurial endeavors, Bourdain can afford to stay pretty much wherever he wants. But the star appreciates more than just 5-star accommodations, ambiance is everything and he describes Hotel Oloffson as “Sagging, creaky and leaky but awesome.”

Photo by: pizzo cipria e bouquet
Photo by: pizzo cipria e bouquet

4. Hotel Continental Saigon -Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Bourdain appreciates history along with his good nights sleep, and for this reason he loves to stay at Hotel Continental Saigon; Vietnam’s very first (and consequently oldest) hotel.

Photo by: Artful Rooms With a View
Photo by: Artful Rooms With a View

3. The Raleigh -Miami, Florida

Bourdain can’t stress it enough; stay at The Raleigh for the best pool in Miami. Period.

Photo by: The Raleigh Hotel
Photo by: The Raleigh Hotel

2. Chiltern Firehouse -London, England

This old Victorian firehouse turned hotel is owned by the same team as Bourdain’s number one pick and he describes the London hotel as “pretty much perfection.”

Photo by: Chiltern Firehouse Hotel
Photo by: Chiltern Firehouse Hotel

1. Chateau Marmont -Los Angeles, California

Bourdain’s love of Chateau Marmot is clear: the author says “if I have to die in a hotel room, let it be here. I will work in LA just to stay at the Chateau.”

Photo by: Chateau Marmont
Photo by: Chateau Marmont

8 Things to See and Do in Cambodia

After the fall of the terrifying and violent Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1990s, Cambodia has slowly re-established itself as a popular backpacker and off-the-beaten-path tourist destination. As the region stabilizes, more and more travelers are flocking to the area to marvel at the country’s world famous ancient structures and ruins, as well as explore the many virtually untouched beaches and natural wonders. For anyone heading to South East Asia, these are EscapeHere’s top eight things to see and do in Cambodia:

8. Visit Prasat Preah Vihear

Found on the obscure Thai-Cambodian border, visiting the ancient Hindu temple of Prasat Preah Vihear is akin to attending a field study on Cambodian political history. The temple dates back to the Khmer Empire under Yasovarman I (889-910) and has witnessed everything from centuries of Thai-Cambodian tensions to the modern aggression of the Khmer Rouge; the Communist regime that terrorized Cambodians until the late 1990s. Though heavy with the implications of history (the site is still plagued by patrolling military personnel) the temple is a beautiful example of Hindu architecture devoted, as was common for the time, to the deity Shiva. The stunning location atop the Dangkrek Mountain escarpment gives visitors an unparalleled view of the low country, visible some 550 meters below, and various sets of steps edging the complex and seemingly descending into an unknowable abyss make for one of the most hauntingly beautiful sites in the world.

Prasat Preah Vihear Cambodia

7. Check Out the Villages on Tonle Sap Lake

From floating and stilted villages to a rare bird sanctuary, Cambodia’s only freshwater lake, Tonle Sap, has plenty of interesting sights for those willing to venture out to find them. The lake also has the unique quality of flowing in two directions after the heavy rainy season, an event that is marked by the annual water festival (October/November) which features colorful boat racing and general merriment.

Villages on Tonle Sap Lake Cambodia

6. Sample Authentic Khmer Cuisine

Though significantly less famous than the culinary delights of neighboring Thailand and Vietnam, the Khmer cuisine of Cambodia deserves foodie recognition in its own right. It is here that visitors can find immeasurable quantities of food stalls lining city streets and selling enormous plates of food for often, as little as a dollar. Especially worth trying are the humble bai sach chrouk (pork and rice), fish and meat amok (fish/meat mousse that sounds scary but will delight your taste buds) and lap khmer (a lime marinated beef salad dressed with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, green beans and green peppers). Given a fair shake, even picky eaters will be won over by the delightful balance of sweet and bitter that form the main characteristics of authentic Cambodian cuisine.

Khmer Cambodian Cuisine

5. Escape to the Beach Paradise of Koh Rong Island

After countless hours spent journeying on rickety buses, navigating ruins and traumatizing your mind with the brutal history of this region, a vacation from your vacation might be just what you need. The peaceful and laid-back island vibe on Koh Rong Island is the perfect place to recharge you wanderlust battery, as well as get a golden opportunity to see one of the most idyllic natural landscapes in the world.

Beach Koh Rong Island Cambodia

4. Get a Sobering History Lesson at the S-21 Prison Museum

Although not a typical light-hearted vacation outing, many would agree that making time to learn about the history of a country you’re visiting is a sign of respect, as well as a unique opportunity to gain some insight into the nation’s cultural identity. With that in mind, a visit to the former S-21 Prison, now known as the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide is a heartbreaking (but necessary) experience for anyone visiting Cambodia. Located just outside of Phnom Penh, the exterior of the complex looks just like any other high school in the area, but the inside depicts the brutal reality of the blood-thirsty Khmer Rouge regime. A visit to the property reveals the stark original furniture or the prison/torture/death facility as well as hundreds of haunting victim photographs that plaster the interior walls (an initiative part of the meticulous record keeping of the regime). Spend some time here learning about the inner workings of the ultra-Communist regime and pay your respects to the lives lost and the gruesome history endured by the Cambodian people.

chris kolaczan / Shutterstock.com
chris kolaczan / Shutterstock.com

3. Marvel at the Beauty of the Royal Palace

The ornately constructed, gilded structures of the Royal Palace complex in Phnom Penh are arguably the most beautiful in the country. The royal residence of Cambodian Kings since the 1860s, the complex is divided into 4 distinct areas separated by walls: the Silver Pagoda, the Khemarin Palace, the Throne Hall and the private Inner Court. While over half of the property is closed to the public (it is the current King’s residence), visitors are still able to get a feel for the intricate and luxurious beauty of the complex and explore the history that is has witnessed by visiting the Silver Pagoda, the Throne Room and several other outbuildings that remain publicly accessible.

Royal Palace Cambodia

2. Wander Around the Day and Night Markets in Phnom Penh

For a chance to purchase absolutely anything and everything and to explore the unique structure of a Phnom Penh landmark, check out the city’s Central Market, open daily from 7 AM to 5 PM. The art-deco structure housing the market was originally designed by French architect Louis Chauchon and is basically a large dome branching out into 4 large hallways. For tourists, the market is a must-visit location to witness the bustle and energy of Cambodian daily life, with the modern interior seemingly clashing with the old-world style stalls animated but the bargaining for merchants and customers. For a more exotic (and less chaotic) market experience, visitors can check out the riverfront Night Market, open on Friday and Saturday nights, and grab some unique souvenirs, sample delicious street eats and experience the city’s awesome nighttime vibe.

Day and Night Markets in Phnom Penh Cambodia

1. Spend Days Getting Lost at the Angkor Wat Complex and Surrounding Area

The largest religious monument in the world, the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap remains Cambodia’s most popular tourist destination. Occupying an area of about 500 acres, the main temple was built in the early 12th century in the Khmer architectural tradition, and is now inscribed as a UNESCO World heritage Site along with the other structures in the greater Angkor Archaeological Park. Seeing this ancient site in person is a mind-boggling experience that causes an overwhelming realization and appreciation of grandeur, architecture, history and nature. Many of the area’s overgrown temples, structures and ruins have remained relatively untouched (save conservation efforts) and getting lost among them is truly a mystical, life changing experience.

Banyon Temple Angkor Wat Cambodia

An Introvert’s Guide to 8 Incredibly Secluded Places

Stare at the horizon for hours; ponder the world; dig your toes in the sand; climb a mountain; gaze across endless forest or ocean–change your perspective and you can change your life, your thoughts, your reality. Escape the masses and experience life without interruptions, deadlines, stress, haste, the media barrage—taste life in its purest form in seclusion where you can hear yourself think. There’s merit in vacationing among  company but there’s also incredible worth in examining some of the world’s most wonderfully secluded destinations to experience authenticity in its finest form.

8. Nauru

The Micronesian island of Nauru in the Central Pacific is just 20 square kilometers and home to less than 10,000 people. There’s no lack of anything natural, pristine, and beautiful–Naura is perfectly picturesque, with extensive white sand beaches and endless ocean views. If listening to the sound of water lapping at the shore is about the most activity you’re looking for, Nauru delivers. This is one of the least visited destinations in the world but still attracts anyone looking to (literally) get away from it all. The only way to arrive is via flights from Brisbane, Australia once per week on Nauru’s charming airline, simply called Our Airline. Despite the remoteness there are a few entertaining things to do: a sheltered dive or relaxing days along the alabaster sands of Anibare Bay is a great option. Buada Lagoon, Central Plateau, and the Parliament House round up the main attractions.

Photo by: SBS
Photo by: SBS

7. Tobago

Tobago is the small, quieter, and more secluded part of  Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, mostly removed from the tourist scene and spanning only 32 kilometers. It’s an entirely laid-back kind of place that’s so relaxing neighboring Trinidad locals enjoy it as a weekend getaway. Quiet and beautiful, Englishman’s Bay is directly out of a film, with a crescent beach, white sand, and nothing strenuous about it unless you get out for a rigorous swim. Snorkel with the fishes and trade the lush, jungle backdrop for underwater scenes or visit Pigeon Point Bay and revel in the simplicity of dining options–you can actually get a rack of ribs here if you want to interrupt your reverie. There are so many engaging ways to break spell of seclusion if desired: beachfront horseback riding, kite and windsurfing, rainforest tours, and the Speyside Hummingbird Gallery are reminders you’re not alone.

Tobago

6. Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Quirimbas Archipelago is a protected national park located near mainland Pemba and off the northern coast of Mozambique. Decades ago, Portuguese trading routes and Arab trading posts prevailed over the seas and today, most of the 34 adjacent islands remain vacant of residents. Natural and cultural heritage is exemplified in Ilhas Quirimbas, all partially connected by coral reefs, sand bars, and mangroves and surrounded by ocean water rich with marine life. Along the flourishing stretch are the islands of Quisiva, Ilbo, and Matemo showcasing pre-colonial Swahili sites and old Portuguese establishments. Sea kayaking and sailing are two tranquil ways to soak in the solitude. If you’re not a complete recluse, visit Vamizi island where the day’s theme is “relaxing,” snorkeling and diving is world class, and the best views include the billowing, white sails of the dhows moving without sound against cerulean Indian Ocean.

Photo by: Mozambique Travel
Photo by: Mozambique Travel

5. Sakhalin Island, Russia

Located on the eastern side of Russia’s mainland, Sakhalin Island has been home to indigenous tribes for centuries–currently the only indigenous population is the Nivkh whose language is unrelated to any other on earth. In 1990, tourists were permitted to start visiting the pristine beaches and sparkling rock cliffs but it’s still not common to find too many foreigners. Still, this gorgeous island is ideal for escaping the scramble of modern life, shack up in one of a dozen-plus hotels, and relish in a secluded and dramatic backdrop. Getting there isn’t exactly straightforward but it’s entirely doable: take a cross-continental trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway into Khabarovsk on Russia’s east side; ride a hydrofoil to Komsomolsk; hop another train to Vanino and then book an island ferry. Traveling this far-flung place isn’t effortless but worth it to vacate the rest of the world for awhile.

Sakhalin Island, Russia

4. Lofoten, Norway

Approaching Lofoten archipelago in Norway is an unforgettable experience: jagged islands extend rocky frames against the horizon like some strange, barbed, island lizard and you marvel at how anyone actually lives here at all in such raw, unfavorable conditions (a small population does and they seem to make it work quite well). Lofoten comprises the main islands of Flakstadov, Austvagoy, Moskenesoy, and Vestvagoy, all distanced by Vestfjorden from the mainland but joined by tunnels and bridges that create easy route to the entire area. Ech island is a sanctuary of scenic villages living under the Auroral Oval laden with protected bays and extensive pastures. Set along one of Norway’s picturesque National Tourist Routes, Lofoten showcases the stunning Aurora Borealis, incredible whale watching, myriad adventure sports including kayaking, cycling, and hiking and some remote cottages and cabins ideal for sheltering your inner solitarian.

Lofoten, Norway

3. Cape York Peninsula, Australia

Cape York Peninsula is a massive, unspoiled expanse of pristine wilderness that exemplifies Australia’s position as a sensationally scenic destination with very low population density. Situated on the country’s northern edge, Cape York Peninsula is just 128 kilometers south of Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor. Palm-lined beaches and lush rainforests comprise are found along Cape York’s spine which is The Great Dividing Range on the eastern edge–on the west are coastal mangrove and eucalyptus forests and extensive savannah woods. Here, the population is less than 20,000, mostly comprised of aboriginal tribes, and is thought to be one of the biggest swaths of undeveloped land in the world. Cape York’s qualities have earned it a reputation among adventure enthusiasts but with many areas difficult to access, there isn’t any kind of influx of tourism here and the natural landscape has been very well preserved.

Photo by: Cooper Tires Aus
Photo by: Cooper Tires Aus

2. Masoala National Park, Madagascar

If living amongst chameleons, geckos, and butterflies sounds better than sharing space with humans, Masoala National Park in Madagascar could be the perfect spot to kick back. Three marine parks, balmy beaches, a pristine shoreline, and over 2,200 square kilometers of protected land are worthy reasons to ditch the daily grind and visit the park. Hiking excursions lead across tree-backed, beachfront paradise for days on end–another great way avoid everything but natural backdrop. Visit Antongil Bay during summer months and see scores of whale pods occupying the sheltered cove, explore sandy stretches and corals within marine reserves, and hike the coastal trail from Alhoatrozana to Antalavia that careens back and forth between rocky coves, golden beaches, and succulent forests–the most impressive stretch in the park. Several beachfront and hidden forest lodges, from basic to upscale, offer shelter from the elements–and whatever else you want to avoid.

Masoala National Park, Madagascar

1. Koh Tonsay, Cambodia

On Cambodia’s southwest side, 25 minutes from Kep Krong, is Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island), a sleepy little island with some of the most scenic beachfront real estate in the Gulf of Thailand. Surprisingly,  few tourists visit though access is simple by boat; that surprise is quickly replaced by a daze over the gorgeous backdrop mostly void of residents, short on electricity, and lacking vehicles of any kind. Eight small establishments offer traditional, thatch-roof bungalows which, during the week, are gloriously empty. Though you’ll have to share the turf with incoming guests over the weekend, Tonsay is still magnificently quiet and a world away from other Southeast Asian islands in feel. Hammocks, coconut palms, and a few dozen bungalows share the almost-2000-foot beach with a smattering of fantastic seafood joints–this is a place to wile away blissful, effortless days and bask in the beauty of detachment.

Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

The Top Countries You Can Visit For Less Than $50 a Day

With more people traveling around the world, countries are getting even more expensive to visit. Despite popular beliefs, it is possible to pick the right place where you can stretch your dollar for days, even weeks. Doing your research, opting for public transportation, and eating in local spots will all go a long way to helping you stick to your budget.

10. Thailand

Despite its popularity, Thailand has remained one of the cheapest countries to visit over the years. The north side of the country is definitely cheaper than Bangkok and the islands but you will be hard-pressed to spend more than $50 a day. Rooms go for about $6-10 per day and a meal from a local restaurant will run you $5. The picture-perfect islands are even a bargain here, provided you don’t want to stay in a luxury resort. Local buses are cheap, beers are cheap and activities and sightseeing rarely runs you over $15. It is no wonder Thailand remains a hugely popular destination for budget travelers and although many continue to flock here, there is still plenty to explore without being engulfed in the crowds.

Phang Nga Bay Thailand

9. Greece

Greece has always been a bit of a budget traveler’s paradise when it comes to Europe. The fall of the economy in Greece has only made it more affordable to visit. Whether you are choosing to visit one of the islands or the mainland, there are bargains to be found. In the past few years, tourism has actually been on the decline of this beautiful country and has dragged the low prices even lower. Street vendors will sell you fresh delicious gyros for under $3 where a huge lamb meal complete with local alcohol might run you $10. Hotels and rooms can be as cheap as $20 a night and take local buses to save even more. Stay away from the touristy islands to save on accommodations and meals and choose to visit the roads less traveled.

Athens, Greece

8. Peru

Peru is one of South America’s liveliest and friendliest countries and it just so happens to be one of the cheapest to travel in. Although most travelers come here for the Inca trail, Peru is absolutely loaded with other things to see and do. Stay in a hostel for around $10 or splurge for a guesthouse that will run you $25 a night. Sit down meals are rarely over $5 and the local intracity buses cost around $1. What costs the most in this country are the activities you do. Book last minute specials when you arrive in Peru to visit Machu Picchu at half price or explore other ruins of Inca destinations for less. Hit the deserted white sand beaches, sail the Amazon and explore a beautiful country full of happy and funny people.

Lima Peru

7. Romania

Romania is the perfect country to experience old-world charm at half the price. Although many people associate this country as a decrepit ex-Communist nation, Romania is actually full of awesome things to discover. This Eastern European country offers medieval villages, castles and beautiful countryside. The time to travel here is holiday season which is the low season where you can stay for even cheaper. Expect to pay around $10 for a room and $5 for most meals. Entrance to the museums and galleries are quite cheap at $5-10 and makes for a perfect way to explore the cities. Try to stick to the smaller towns here as the touristy ones can charge double or triple for rooms and meals. If you have always wanted to explore Europe but found the price point to be high, try hitting up Romania for the ultimate European adventure.

Radu Bercan / Shutterstock.com
Radu Bercan / Shutterstock.com

6. Portugal

The cheapest place to visit in Western Europe is the beautiful and lively country of Portugal. Beaches, wine country, historical cities, and towering cliffs make it an exciting place to discover. Dorm beds can be found for about $20 a night and an even cheaper option is to camp as this country is home to spotless campgrounds located right on the beach. Meals can be a bit pricey and the bigger cities such as Lisbon often offer the most affordable food choices. Lisbon also happens to be one of the most affordable cities to stay in a five-star hotel, just in case you feel like splurging for a night. Take advantage of the free admission days that most cities offer with access to museums and galleries, ride the cheap and efficient public transit systems and enjoy this wonderful country at an extremely low price.

Porto Santo, Portugal

5. Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries on this list to visit and much like its neighboring country of Thailand it offers rich history, great cuisine, and a good nightlife.  This country is also less developed and less explored and therefore comes in even cheaper than Thailand. A fully private room in a typical hostel with air conditioning will only cost you about $8 a night where a typical hotel room with A/C will only run you $15-20. Food is even cheaper, most costing $2 for local food and $6-8 for a more typical Western meal. Even exploring the jungles, the cities, and the ruins won’t cost you a lot. With some of the nicest people around and raw rugged beauty at every turn, it is easy to understand why travelers often call this country their favorite. You will be hard-pressed to spend $50 a day here unless you want to live like a king.

Cambodia Floating Market Seller

4. Nicaragua

It’s the largest country in Central America but one of the least discovered and therefore extremely cheap to travel in. That is until it becomes more popular like neighboring Costa Rica. For now, though it is easy to make your way through the country experiencing the lively people, colorful towns, surfing, wildlife and volcano trekking that will keep you entertained for weeks and all for the cost of less than $50 a day. Sleep in a hammock for $5 or splurge for a room with a bathroom for $20. Food costs just mere dollars whether you are eating from a street vendor or local restaurant. Getting around is cheap and easy, either by using local buses or hopping in the back of a local truck, an ever-popular choice with locals and visitors alike. Stay away from the touristy area of San Juan del Sur as prices tend to be inflated and there are more beautiful beaches and jungles to the north.

Nicaragua

3. Indonesia

This beautiful chain of islands looks to be expensive with its stunning blue waters and silky sands. But don’t let the pictures fool you. If you can get away from the more touristy places it is actually quite affordable to travel within the country. In fact, it’s the plane ticket to get here that costs so much. The touristy south near Ubud and Kuta are where visitors will want to avoid, as they are full of dirty beaches and overpriced resorts. Head to the rather unexplored areas instead and it is easy to find a room in a hostel or guest house for less than $4 a night. Street food will only cost you a couple of dollars where a restaurant meal may run you $6. For well under $50 a day you will find rice terraces, black and white sand beaches, volcanoes, food markets, and jungles.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

2. India

India is extremely cheap to travel to and instead of asking how one should survive on $50 a day most people ask how they can do it on $20 a day. Yes, it is possible. Local Indian vegetarian food is the way to stick on budget with the occasional splurge on meat and you can bank on spending no more than $10 a day total on food. Rooms can be found for about $5 a night. Take rickshaws instead of taxis and local buses. The flight to India is definitely the most expensive part about traveling here but once you have arrived, everything else is truly a bargain. With the exchange rate being as it is, changing dollars into rupees is advantageous for the traveler and they are seeing 50% more money to travel with, thus making India one of the best bargain countries on this list.

India Market

1. Turkey

Turkey is a unique mix of eastern and western culture which visitors should plan on spending at least a few weeks discovering. Luckily it is easy to live on much less than $50 a day here and despite popular beliefs, it’s actually not that expensive to reach. Istanbul happens to be one of the handfuls of cities around the world where airfare bargains are the norm. Hostels will be your most expensive part costing about $20 a night but the quality is high and often includes a wonderful breakfast. Typical food such as kebabs and shawarmas will only cost you about $2. The good news is the buses run frequently and are cheap, offering the chance to explore a lot of this country. Turkey offers spectacular landscapes, delicious food, fantastic sights and plenty of things to do all for the mere price of $50 a day.

Istanbul, Turkey

10 Tourist Attractions That Really are THAT GOOD

Everyone has talked about how great it is, you have been planning and looking forward to it, you can’t wait to finally see it and then it happens. You get to the greatest tourist attraction the world has ever known, you take a look around, scratch your head and wonder what the big deal is. We have all been there, standing in line to get into some place only to wish we had skipped it. Although there are plenty of places that might disappoint, we have compiled a list of tourist attractions that live up to the hype and are totally worth visiting.

10. The Alhambra -Granada, Spain

The Alhambra fortress and palace complex in Granada is one of Spain’s main tourist attractions and well worth the visit. Construction began in the 9th century with a small fort but it was the years between 1333-1391 that the Alhambra was expanded and is what much of what visitors can admire today. The Patio of Lions is probably the most famous place at the Alhambra. Aptly named for the twelve lions around the fountain. The white marble fountain sits in the middle of the patio which is rectangular and surrounded by a gallery supported by 124 white marble columns. The Alcazaba, a fortress, is the oldest part of the Alhambra and one of the places with the best views of the city can be found in the gardens near the entrance. The number of visitors is limited daily with certain time slots given to you to visit some of the palaces. Even if you have a ticket you should plan to arrive early. One thing is for certain, you won’t regret having visited.

VLADJ55 / Shutterstock.com
VLADJ55 / Shutterstock.com

9. Palace of Versailles, France

From the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI Versailles was the principal residence of the French King. The opulent castle has 250 acres of manicured lawns, gardens and fountains. The hall of mirrors, containing over 300 mirrors, reflect the gardens through the 17 arched windows. You can walk the halls where French history’s famous and infamous once lived, partied and ruled the country. People like Madame Pompadour, mistress and confidant of King Louis XV, Madame Du Barry, Marie Antoinette and even Napoleon. The palace has five chapels, over 1,200 fireplaces and 67 staircases. Created in the 17th century Versailles contains Europe’s largest palace garden, an impressive site in itself with trees, flowers, status, fountains and walking paths. For a glimpse of France during the ages of Kings, courts and extravagance Versailles is certainly the place and won’t disappoint.

Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com
Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

8. Sơn Doòng Cave, Vietnam

If you are willing to walk 10 km through a dense forest on a small path then ascend down a cliff you can be one of the few people in modern times to have ever seen the largest cave in the world. Formed over a million years ago, the cave was discovered in modern times by a local man in 1990. The path through the jungle was so dense he could not remember how to find it again until he rediscovered it in 2008. Since that time the cave has been partially explored and discovered to be over five kilometers long with sections reaching 200 meters high and contains waterfalls, flowing rivers and an abundance of wildlife. Explorers attempted to measure a lake inside the cave but the rope they used only extended 200 meters so a final depth could not be determined. A five day, four night tour will set you back around $4,000 and be led by experienced cave experts.

Photo by: Travelled Paths
Photo by: Travelled Paths

7. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History -Washington DC, USA

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is one of several museums that make up what is known as The Smithsonian. Opened in 1910 the museum houses over 125 million natural science specimens and artifacts. An estimated 7 million people visit the museum each year. The main building contains 325,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space. Exhibitions include meteorites and fossils, animal specimens, some extinct like the Tasmanian Tiger, stone figures from Easter Island and so much more. You have heard of the Hope Diamond? Well it is on display here as well. The blue diamond has a storied history and owners have included King George IV of England and King Louis XIV of France. The museum is open 364 days a year only closing on Christmas day and the best part is admission is free.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Washington

6. Vatican City -Rome, Italy

Vatican City is a city state surrounded by Rome and the headquarters of the Catholic Church. You don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to appreciate all this city has to offer. At just over 100 acres Vatican City attracts millions of visitors and religious pilgrims each year. Visitors to Vatican City enter through St Peters Square and line up to visit the Vatican museums. Visitors can view the Raphael Rooms where Raphael painted frescoes covering four rooms, St Peters Basilica, Greek and Roman antiquities and of course the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s ceiling and altar frescoes and painting from other masters have been restored and now visitors can see the masterpieces better than before. There are many tour companies offering guided tours but the best way to visit is to take a personal tour. A personal tour guide give you a more personalized experience and deviate from the tour schedule so you can see things when the other tours aren’t there yet.

Vatican City Sunset

5. Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid is one of Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes and sits on the border of Macedonia and Albania. The lake, almost 19 miles long and over 9 miles wide, is a favorite destination in the region and home of the Ohrid trout. The Macedonian side of the lake has several towns along a 20 mile stretch of road worth visiting and spending a few days or even a week at. The town of Ohrid itself is a fabulous place to visit.  The city of Ohrid traces its roots to the pre – Slavic period and attracts people from all over the world. Known as the Balkan Jerusalem, at one time Ohrid had 365 churches and was the religious center of Macedonia. One of the best examples is the St John Kaneo Church which is one of the most photographed churches in the world. The Tsar Samuels Fortress sits prominently on a hill overlooking the town where cobble stone streets wind through the city. Small shops, sidewalk cafés nearby archeological excavations and the monastery of St Naum are worth visiting also.

St John Kaneo Church Ohrid Macedonia

4. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The Temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is considered the largest religious monument in the world. Built in the first half of the 12th century it took an estimated 30 years to construct. Angkor Wat is actually one monument within the Angkor group of temples. There are 41 monuments and temples within the complex with Angkor Wat being the most famous and important. Angkor Wat covers 500 acres and has a moat with a long sandstone causeway crossing it. Galleries consisting of Bas reliefs and pavilions stretching over the temple make it an imposing site. Visitors to Angkor Wat are never underwhelmed by the site and the entire archeological site of Angkor, stretching over 400 km, can take days to fully explore and appreciate the wonders. A major cultural, religious and historical site, Angkor Wat should be on your list of places to visit.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

3. Koyasan, Japan

Listed as a World Heritage Site, Koyasan is an active center of Shingon Buddhism. Located 2 hours by train from Tokyo, at the top of Mount Koya, the area is a complex of Buddhist temples, halls and pagodas. More than 100 temples form this religious city. Visitors enter the city through the magnificent 25 meter high Dai-mon Gate where two statues of guardian gods stand on either side. Each morning the chief priest and monks of the temple hold services, chanting Buddhist sutras. Visitors to the area can stay at over 50 of the temples where monks will prepare your room and serve vegetarian dishes. Temple lodging, known as Shukubo, is popular in Japan and Koyasan is the best place to get the entire experience. During your stay you can rent one of the 25 bicycles available to explore the city.

Koyasan, Japan
cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The largest living structure on the planet stretching 2300 km, The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space. If that doesn’t impress you then you are really hard to please. Consisting of 600 types of corals, over 1600 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and manta rays and over 30 species of whales and dolphins, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the worlds most treasured eco systems. Visitors to the reef can enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling to get up close to the corals and marine life or take a cruise along the most scenic parts of the reef. Other activities include hot air balloon tours and helicopter tours of the area. The nearby Daintree Rainforest is a popular attractions as well as white water rafting on the Russel and Barron Rivers. Whether you want to lay on a sandy beach and go swimming, get up close to the marine life, do something adventurous on the rivers or learn to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef has it all.

great barrier Reef turtle

1. Disney World -Orlando, Florida

What? Disney World you say? Absolutely. What once was thought of as a kids theme park has evolved into a mecca of family and adult fun. Let’s look at some facts about Disney World. Disney World Resorts is actually several parks consisting of The Magic Kingdom, Epcot World, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. At over 30,000 acres it is about the size of San Francisco. Over 48 million people visit the resort each year. It’s not just for kids. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival features celebrity chefs, mixology seminars, craft beers and wines from around the world. Some of the resorts run by Disney are geared more for adults than others with upscale dining, spas and gold courses. Stay at the Disney Yacht Club where you can dine on mouthwatering steaks at the Yachtsman Steak House and take a boat ride to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With everything to offer it is possible to spend a couple of weeks and still not come close to doing everything.

Photo by: Vii Know
Photo by: Vii Knowstate-flori

The 12 Most Unique Hostels For Your Next Adventure

Hostels were once regarded as shady, filth ridden places that most people agreed should be avoided at all costs. While this may still true of some places out there, thanks to the internet gifting us all with access to immense amounts of information, including hotel reviews and visitor testimonies, lodgings around the world have been forced to step up their competitive game. Staying in a clean, comfortable and centrally located room no longer means forking out hundreds of dollars a night or greatly compromising on quality. It also means that tons of creative, one of a kind accommodations have come out of the woodwork, offering visitors an experience that is so much more than just a bunk-bed dorm and shared facilities. So for those on a budget and looking for a truly unique stay, here are 12 of the world’s most amazing budget hostel accommodations:

12. Hostel Old Plovdiv – Plovdiv, Bulgaria

You can let your old soul shine through and reminisce about days gone by in this boutique-style hostel furnished almost exclusively with antiques. Housed in a historic building in an ancient part of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the property exudes an old-world vibe that is in keeping with its surroundings, and provides a truly unique home base as you explore this beautiful city. While the hostel maintains character from top to bottom, architecture to décor, the hosts make sure to offer a wide variety of amenities for the convenience of their guests, including free breakfast, WiFi and parking, as well as a host of organized adventure and culture-based daytime excursions.

Photo by: Hostel Old Plovdiv
Photo by: Hostel Old Plovdiv 

11. Dawson City River Hostel – Yukon, Canada

For those of you who are looking to explore the Canadian North and for whom the idea of “unique” translates to “rustic”—and we do truly mean rustic, not just exposed beams and wood trim—Canada’s northernmost hostel is the place for you. Located on the western side of the Yukon River, overlooking the city of Dawson, the region is not connected to the city power grid or water supply, allowing owner Dieter Reinmuth to stay true to his vision of providing a true northern-living experience. This place will bring out your adventurous side as you disconnect from those newfangled notions of electricity and technology, and immerse yourself in the nature of simplistic cabins, outdoor cooking and fire-wood heated bathing facilities. Visitors also have access to bikes, canoes, and heaps of information on what to explore in the area, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to broaden their horizons and/or break out of their modern-living comfort zone.

Photo by: Dawson City River Hostel
Photo by: Dawson City River Hostel

10. Capsule Ryokan – Kyoto, Japan

In true Japanese-style efficiency, the Capsule Ryokan in Kyoto offers the very traditional style of hostel bunk beds with a very unique twist. Each bunk can actually be enclosed “capsule style” and transformed into your very own quarters, complete with personal air conditioning, a wall-mounted flat screen TV and a storage locker. The hostel also offers traditional Japanese-style private rooms, a common lounge area and a refreshing dose of culture—daily kimono fittings!

Photo by: Capsule Ryokan Kyoto
Photo by: Capsule Ryokan Kyoto

9. City Hostel Seattle – Washington, USA

This artistic paradise is unique not only in concept but in its very décor –each room is one of a kind, decorated by a different local artist. The fact that it’s housed in the historic Lorraine Hotel (popular celebrity haunt of the 1930s) and offers free movies in its in-house movie theater only adds to its super eclectic vibe. This, along with its free breakfast, extremely helpful staff and a central location has earned it a place as one of the best-rated budget accommodations in the city of Seattle.

Photo by: Hung On The World
Photo by: Hung On The World

8. Ottawa Jail Hostel – Ontario, Canada

If you’ve ever had a hankering to spend the night in the slammer (you know, without all of those pesky legal and ethical hurdles), take a trip to Canada’s capital city and live your dream! The Ottawa Jail Hostel is a 150 year old converted prison in heart of the city, and provides accommodation in cells themselves (dorm-style) and in former officers’ quarters (private rooms, usually for families). The hostel also offers a variety of freebies; WiFi, breakfast and daily jail tours are all included, as well as the priceless feature of awesome hosts, who, on their website state, “If you are lucky, you can also meet a ghost…free of charge! No need to thank us.” Free ghosts AND a touch of sass? Sold.

Photo by: Deano World Travels
Photo by: Deano World Travels

7. Clayzy House – Ko Lanta, Thailand

Attention all free-spirited, adventure-seeking, eco-conscious music and art lovers (yep, that’s right), because the Clayzy House hostel community on Thailand’s west coast just might become your second home. Built entirely by hand from local materials such as mud, bamboo and driftwood, the hostel provides both tree house style and dorm accommodations and exudes a laid-back, artsy vibe for travelers who love nature and don’t mind “roughing it” (floors are made of mud and washroom facilities are shared.) The place also offers frequent open mic nights, seemingly endless floor-to-ceiling artwork and a pristine location that is just steps from the beach. Additionally, the on-site bar, common area slung with hammocks and steady stream of reggae and rock music have helped solidify the hostel’s reputation as having one of the best shared accommodation atmospheres in the world, with many past lodgers admitting they stayed much longer than initially planned.

Photo by: Lanta Clayzy House
Photo by: Lanta Clayzy House

6. Tulia House Backpackers – Mombasa, Kenya

While much of this hostel on Mombasa’s coast fits the bill for standard budget accommodation, with both private and dorm-style rooms, it offers one truly unique (and extremely cool) opportunity—the chance to spend an African-style night. Visitors have the option to forego typical bunk bed dorms and stay in a traditionally constructed building that is complete a sand floor and curtained exterior walls, and sleep on a suspended Funzi hammock (linens and a mosquito net are provided for comfort). The hostel also has a stellar social scene, with outdoor movie nights, poolside BBQs, beer pong tournaments and speedboat excursions to nearby beach bars.

Photo by: Afriken Travel
Photo by: Afriken Travel

5. Fauzi Azar Inn – Nazareth, Israel

Housed in a 200-year-old mansion in the heart of Nazareth’s Old City, The Fauzi Azar Inn provides a stunning home base for travelers interested in exploring Galilee. The inn offers uniquely decorated dorms and private rooms and is centrally located within walking distance to all major sites, including the souq (open air market), the Basilica of Annunciation and the White Mosque. The hostel building itself is also a sight to behold, featuring a hand-painted ceiling and marble floors, and the hospitality and endless efforts of the hosts are unparalleled, offering visitors free breakfast, free daily walking tours and free cake!

Photo by: Five Holles
Photo by: Five Holles

4. Mushroom Point – Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Exactly as the name implies, both the communal dorm and the private rooms in this small hostel are straw huts shaped to look like mushrooms, earning it a place as one of the most creative hostels out there. Another distinguishing feature is that there is not one bunk bed to be seen across the entire property, with sleeping facilities equipped with rattan-made round beds (big enough for two) draped in mosquito netting. The few bungalows on the property each offer private bathrooms and small patios, and the place as a whole boasts top-rated food, beautiful gardens and a prime location just minutes from the beach.

Photo by: Down From the Door
Photo by: Down From the Door

3. Kadir’s Tree Houses – Olympos, Turkey

Have you ever considered switching lives with a sometimes-drunk, extremely well-fed squirrel living in a forest? If so, here is your chance. In all seriousness, Kadir’s is a one of a kind budget accommodation found in a truly stunning location in Turkey’s Antalya region, just minutes from Olympos beach. The hostel offers the choice between bungalows (air conditioned and standard) and its most unique feature: traditionally-built tree house dorms. The property also has 2 bars, a seafood restaurant and a snack bar, as well as an extremely lively social scene. Breakfast and dinner are also included, proving that despite all of the recent positive publicity and rapid expansion to Kadir’s, travelers remain the number one priority.

Photo by: Kadir’s Tree Houses
Photo by: Kadir’s Tree Houses

2. Jumbo Stay – Stockholm, Sweden

For you long-range flyers perpetually wondering if you will EVER be able to sleep comfortably on a plane, wonder no more. The answer is still obviously “no,” but you can definitely pretend in Sweden’s Jumbo Stay. The hostel-hotel offers accommodation in a converted Boeing 747, ranging from dormitory style quads to a converted cockpit suite with panoramic views. It’s also conveniently located at the city’s Arlanda Airport, making it extremely handy for travelers who want a cool place to stay as they pass through.

Photo by: Jumbo Stay
Photo by: Jumbo Stay

1. Chateau Bahia – Quebec, Canada

If you’ve been meaning to satisfy your childhood dream of living in a fairy tale castle but just can’t seem to remember where you put that spare 2 billion dollars, your troubles are behind you. This wooden castle, which took 18 years to construct, offers both dorm-style and private rooms, and comes complete with a banquet room, 4 towers and 7 turrets. Your stay includes free breakfast and—for an added fee—a nightly candlelit dinner in the banquet hall, as well as a slew of activities both in the castle and in the surrounding forests of the Gaspé Peninsula. For those who consider themselves handy and have at least 2 weeks to spare, the hostel also offers free stays for anyone willing to help with additional construction.

Photo by: Chateau Bahia
Photo by: Chateau Bahia

 

8 Things to See and Do in Cambodia

Over the last two decades or so, Cambodia has lost its dark, dangerous reputation and memories of Khmer atrocities have faded enough to let the beauty of the country and its people shine through. The Khmer culture fascinates its visitors with enticing street food, white sand beaches offering salty sea air, and the steamy, emerald jungle is filled with outdoor endeavors. Cambodians are peaceful and receptive, the history is unlike anywhere else on earth, and the vistas are backed by kaleidoscopic sunsets. Lacking travelers en masse like in Thailand, Cambodia is still unmistakably authentic.

8. Kampot

Travelers are captivated by Kampot, an endearing, sleepy waterfront village with a magnetic, laid-back feel and one of the country’s most impressive examples of French colonial architecture. Anyone hoping to explore the beautiful Elephant Mountains and Bokor National Park will find Kampot not only advantageous, but an interesting and fun base from which to enjoy outdoor adventures. Nearby, the seaside town of Kep, with its magnificent caves and lush, eastern coast, is just another reason to stay. This old trading hub saw its heyday until the 1950s when Sihanoukville gained a favorable position and took over. Kampot is for those looking to enjoy a varied backdrop that’s interesting to explore and perfect to relax in. The Old Market, an aging landmark, has recently seen some gentrification and now features many interesting restaurants and shops—they themselves are attractions, filled with interesting families who begin as strangers but end up good friends.

Kampot, Cambodia

7. Otres Beach

Along the southwest coast of Cambodia is beautiful Otres Beach, the country’s most beautiful stretch of sand. Lining the waterfront are small, traditional bungalows fronted by loungers and brightly hued papasan chairs, with hammocks hung from most big palms and other native trees. There really isn’t any one major attraction here; the biggest sell is the easy-going atmosphere. Most other Cambodian beaches are filled with early morning partiers hanging on to whiskey-filled buckets, looking to get their groove on. Otres is decidedly different. There’s a promising social scene-and plenty of cocktails available—but owners collectively agree to shut down music by 10 pm, making later evenings relaxing rather than rowdy. Though not a hidden gem, Otres Beach is still a little-known favourite among those in the know, but it won’t last so be sure to park yourself on Otres for a few days of pure relaxation and incredible sunsets.

Otres Beach, Cambodia

6. Tonle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap Lake is south of Siem Reap, Southeast Asia’s biggest freshwater lake, and a UNESCO biosphere designated site. When ancient Angkor’s people were thriving, it had much to do with the lake: it’s one of the world’s most productive and varied ecosystems and therefore a central hub for Cambodia’s food production. The most interesting scene here is the series of lakefront villages, both stilted and floating, bustling with life. The bulk of residents are fishermen, mostly Vietnamese immigrants who have been living here for dozens of years. Tourism is on the rise at Tonle Sap, which is producing an essential stream of revenue, but it’s evident traditional life is slowly ebbing away. To avoid the thick of things and enjoy a more authentic experience, skip groups en masse and ride a long tail boat to villages Kampong Khleang and Kompong Phluk, where friendly locals are still fond of curious onlookers.

Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

5. Sisowath Quay

In Phnom Penh’s pretty riverside area is the historic quay called Sisowath, part of Chamkarmon district and adjacent to Sisowath Boulevard. The Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers meet here which is also near the Royal Palace of Cambodia. In the old days of mighty kings and men, the palace was a vantage point for area events such as river races during the annual Water Festival. Being relatively small, Phnom Penh is an easy place to merge eating, temple-spotting, sightseeing, and shopping into a relaxing walk through the city—the dots are all connected by the three kilometer waterfront promenade hugging Tonle Sap’s west bank. This is the social center of Phnom Penh, where locals and visitors mix easily, ambitious artisans and vendors sell their wares, and bars, restaurants, and cafes are abundant. The quay is also the place to find authentic French baguettes and explore magnificent Wat Ounalom.

Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

4. Chi Phat

Once a poacher’s haven, Chi Phat has been impressively transformed into a conservationists paradise, where reformed poachers are the guides who will show you some of Cambodia’s most beautiful, natural treasures. Set in the misty Cardamom Mountains, you’ll be far-flung from the crowds but close to lots of amazing scenery. Take a jungle trek to some of Chi Phat’s best attractions: waterfalls, mountains, and grasslands which are filled with incredible flora and fauna. The village of Chi Pat sits along a river, home to more than 600 families, and also to CBET (community-based ecotourism foundation). Travelers can enjoy the rare opportunity to delve into the ecosystems of the Cardamom Mountains while subsidizing an incredibly worthwhile project. The once logged and poached landscape has enjoyed a much-needed change becoming a reliable source of income and jobs for local villagers aiming to conserve this essential part of Cambodia.

Photo by: Chi Phat Eco Tourism
Photo by: Chi Phat Eco Tourism

3. Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is by far the most famous, historic landmark in Cambodia, and arguably the most popular attraction in Southeast Asia. The complex of ancient temples near Siem Reap is one of the biggest religious masterpieces in the world. Originally built for the Khmer Empire as a Hindu temple, the compound was slowly altered into a Buddhist wat, or temple, near the 12th century. Rivaling the great temples at Bagan in Burma, Angkor Wat is an architectural wonder with stonework to be explored in depth. Khmer kings based out of Angkor ruled the lands from Vietnam to the Bay of Bengal, and held reign for centuries. Over 100 astonishing temples of stone are today’s remnants of a massive social, religious, and administrative center. Some of Angkor’s most unforgettable sights include the faces of Bayon, Banteay Srei temple, and Ta Prohm, each living up to their world famous reputations.

Angkor, Cambodia

2. Ream National Park

Established in 1993 by King Norodom Sihanouk, Ream National Park is one of seven major conservation efforts in Cambodia. Home to more than 205 square kilometers of earthy and marine habitats, Kep is another place to kick off dusty city boots and get out into nature. Less than 20 kilometers from Sihanoukville, Kep boasts rich mangrove swamps, breathtaking coastal panoramas, and flourishing forests of evergreen—the islands of Koh Ses and Koh Thmei are also here. Birders relish in spotting a host of birds—there are more than 150 species in Kep—and exploring Prek Toeuk Sap River where kingfishers, storks, and fishing eagles are common. From December through April spot playful dolphins in almost any season. Day trips by boat through mangroves and rivers, ending in the Gulf of Thailand, are most popular. Safaris and mountain walking tours are more options for scouting the area.

Ream National Park

1. Koh Rong

Anyone who’s explored Thailand’s vast network of islands will love the quiet beauty of Koh Rong, Cambodia’s premier paradise island. Reachable only by a small ferry, not too many tourists make the trip to this small, but gorgeous spot. With more than 20 different beaches to check out, the temptation to stay awhile and laze away the days is overwhelming. Treehouse resorts, traditional beach huts, and a cluster of small hotels will keep any budget traveler on track while still living the good life. Tech junkies will have to put away their devices—there’s only power from dinner time through midnight—but that’s part of the peacefulness here. Lazy hammock days, sunbathing on quiet beaches, eating your weight in delicious Khmer specialties—it’s all readily available on Koh Rong. If you really need some adventure in your island schedule, head out hiking, snorkeling, or diving in the Gulf.

Koh Rong, Cambodia