Guide to Horseback Riding in South America: 10 Best Ranches

It’s time to saddle up and frolic around the South American countryside, gaucho style. From the pampas of Argentina to the jagged cliffs and foothills of the Andes, witness the wild terrain from a different perspective. At one of these authentic ranches, or as the locals call estancias, experience one of the world’s last frontiers in the centuries-old tradition of the early pioneers. The hard-working ranch hands still round up cattle in the vast grasslands of the pampas and enjoy a rustic, simple country life.

10. Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas, Salta, Argentina

For an authentic estancia experience, Argentina style, head to Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas in Salta, a 400-year old ranch and the oldest of its kind in the country. It’s also a great spot for exploring the foothills of the Andes and the nearby Lerma Valley by horseback. After a ride with a local gaucho who knows every inch of the terrain, head back to the luxurious estate for some asado, the traditional Argentinian barbeque. This estancia, which still serves as a working ranch, is perfect for experiencing an authentic day in the life of an Argentinian cowboy. Join the gauchos for a cattle round up and a trail ride through the beautiful and romantic countryside of Salta. Established in 1609, the estate’s historic tradition of warmth and hospitality also comes with all the rustic trappings of the early pioneer days.

9. Estancia Puerto Consuelo, Puerto Natales, Chile

At Estancia Puerto Consuelo in Puerto Natales, Chile, you’ll have the chance to explore the romantic shoreline filled with flamingos and swans on horses that are as laid-back as the Chilean countryside. Once the gaucho shows you the ropes, get ready for a glorious, unforgettable gallop through Patagonia, one of the last frontiers. In 1893, the explorer Captain Herman Eberhard first arrived on the shores of the magnificent terrain and shortly after the Estancia Puerto Consuelo was established, one of the first ranches of the Ultima Esperanza Province. With the peaks of the snow-capped Andes and foothills, there is no shortage of breath-taking views, especially by horseback. After a day of riding the trails and exploring the rustic, pristine landscape, rest your sore legs and sip on a glass of Malbec at the Bories Hotel, a charming country house situated on the shores of Last Hope Sound.

8. Posada de la Laguna, Argentina

Posada de la Laguna is a working ranch in the heart of the Ibera Wetlands and a popular spot among nature lovers and horseback riders for its wild, beautiful landscape and Argentinian horse riding traditions. If you’re feeling adventurous, head out onto the trail bareback with gauchos leading the way. The ranch also offers accommodation in their elegant lodge, which is situated on the shores of the Esteros del Ibera Lagoon, a haven for caimans, capybaras, and exotic wildlife. Venture out for an evening gallop along the shores of the lagoon while taking in sights of the boggy wetlands. For those looking for an eco-vacation filled with scenic tranquility and natural wonders, this pastoral estancia provides a comfortable hangout in between trail rides and boat tours. And like the cowboys will tell you, when you’re in doubt, let your horse do the thinking.

7. Estancia Dos Lunas, Cordoba, Argentina

Deep in the heart of the Ongamira Valley is the 3,000 hectare Estancia Dos Lunas, a remote, hidden gem in Cordoba, Argentina. With big skies,

6. Sayta-Cabalgatas, Salta, Argentina

Another great spot for a horseback riding vacation is Sayta-Cabalgatas in Salta, Argentina. Situated among the ancient tobacco fields of Chicoana, the estancia is housed in a grand, whitewashed colonial style estate. In a place that literally means “where time stands still,” get swept away on a horseback trail ride through mountainous panoramas, big canyons, and trickling streams. At night, cowboys and visitors rest their tired legs over a glass of red wine and excellent Argentinian steak or barbeque. That way, when you climb into the saddle the next day, you’ll be ready for the ride. Because of its proximity to the remote areas of Bolivia and the Andes, explorers will get to witness up close the indigenous tribes that still live the simple, ancient way of life carried on by centuries of generations. In this rural, isolated region, you’ll feel miles away from the harried, bustling urban centers like Buenos Aires.

5. Estancia Cerro Guido, Puerto Natales, Chile

On the border of the Torres del Paine national park in Chile is Estancia Cerro Guido, a typical style ranch that follows in the old pioneering traditions of the first gauchos. Ride to the top of the heaped stone cairn surrounded by snow-capped peaks and feel on top of the world. Experience the Patagonian tradition at one of the country’s grandest and most beautiful estancias. Besides horseback riding adventures, the estate also offers a menu in the old world tradition of barbeque lamb, fine steaks, and lots of South American red wine. Founded in the 19th century, the ranch was built as part of the “Sociedad Explotadora Tierra del Fuego,” and the establishment as Chile’s premier sheep-farming trade. It might be the 21st century, but in this remote part of the continent, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back in time to the pioneering days.

4. Pampa Estancia, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

The setting of the Pampa Estancia in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia is impressive with the surrounding jagged foothills of the Andes and the dense, exotic Amazon rainforest. Saddle up and head out into the countryside and explore the vast, open grasslands of the Reyes pampas as the poncho-wearing gauchos make their cattle wrangling rounds as they have done for centuries. In a fantasy of a lifetime, visitors of all riding levels get the chance to be an authentic South American cowboy for an entire week on their popular eco-tours. So, get on your chaps and ride out into the sunset to discover hidden lagoons, a thriving wildlife habitat, and unchartered terrain. The ranch house also offers riders a peak into the life of a Bolivian cowboy as they go about their daily chores. Prepare yourself for adventurous days of horseback riding through the pampas, evenings with traditional Bolivian food, and beautiful crimson sunsets.

3. Estancias Los Potreros, Cordoba, Argentina

For a horseback riding adventure in the Sierras Chicas, head to Estancia Los Potreros, a working cattle ranch in the Cordoba region of Argentina. Stretching across the western border, the Central Sierras is one of the highest mountain ranges outside the Andean cordillera. Situated on top of a mountain, the estancia is an oasis of dramatic scenery, riding trails, and the traditional way of life of the Argentinian cowboy. For centuries, the gauchos have been perfecting their horse handling skills, including breeding methods. At Los Potreros, horse riders will get the chance to ride the Paso Peruano, a Peruvian horse that is considered to have the smoothest gate of any horse breed. After a day of adventure, take an evening gallop over to Potrero de Loza, the main guesthouse, and relax by the fireplace in a room decorated with charming relics from the old days.

2. Estancia Huechahue, Argentina

For exploring the Patagonian Steppe of Argentina, locals recommend crossing the rugged, wild terrain on horseback, a tradition carried on by Estancia Huechahue for over four generations. Follow the cattle hands on trails through the mountains and witness up close the natural beauty of Argentinian Patagonia. With a rich history of horse riding, the gauchos know every cliff, foothill, and grassy plain of the Andes, and their horses probably know it even better. In a world of vast, untamed terrain, it’s the perfect spot for a glorious gallop across the valley. After a day of trail riding, head back to the lodge, a cottage that encourages rest and relaxation with big trees and a tranquil pond. In a land of homegrown food and a thriving cattle business, visitors have the rare chance of experiencing one of the last remaining cultures that cultivate a simple, wholesome way of life.

1. El Galpon del Glacier Estancia, Argentia

In the heart of the dramatic landscape of Argentina is the El Galpon del Glacier Estancia, a traditional style ranch in the El Calafate region of Santa Cruz. With the word glacier in their name, you can expect spectacular horseback rides through the jagged glaciers known for their magical, iridescent hue of aqua blue. With such a varied landscape, riders have the chance to see impressive panoramic views of iceberg-filled lakes and vast pampas of the grasslands. On a peaceful ride at the edge of the world, you’ll be far away from the smog and noise of the urban centers like Buenos Aires. El Galpon del Glacier is a joyous departure from modern life and the typical vacation. Visitors will get the rare treat of seeing the challenges and bliss of estancia life. From the shores of the Argentinian Lake, hop on one of their sturdy horses and gallop along the waters.

The 9 Best Fashion Museums in the World

Fashion week takes over the world in London, Paris, New York City and Milan twice a year but that doesn’t mean fashion lovers can’t get their fill in the rest of the year. All across the world are incredible fashion-focused museums, some free to check out while others accept a small payment. It is here at these museums where visitors will find one-of-a-kind pieces, a history of shoes, more bags and purses in one spot than you ever imagines, famous articles of clothing, avant-garde fashion and more. From Milan the capital of the fashion world to a UNESCO site in Amsterdam to Italy, there are the best fashion museums in the world.

9. Palazzo Morando, Milan

It wouldn’t be a complete list without a fashion museum in one of the worlds most important design capitals. The Palazzo Morando is housed in the Renaissance palace that was at one point home to Milanese noble families until it was donated to the city in 1945.

It wasn’t until 2010 when the Castello Sforzesco’s costume collection was merged with the former Museum of Milan’s collection that this became one very chic museum. Although you won’t find loads of clothes on display like others, this museum features two separate display areas and includes a collection of clothing, accessories, and uniforms. As a bonus, this museum is free and open to the public.

Via Artribune

8. Christian Dior Museum and Garden, Granville, France

This museum is actually the former childhood home of the famous couturier and now is a place of memories dedicated to the life and work of Christian Dior. Since the year 1997 a temporary exhibit is held each summer who theme is linked to the fashion designs of Dior and his fashion house and since 2010 an Autumn and Winter exhibition presents the museums own collection.

This cliff-top villa houses the designer’s exquisite creations as well as pieces from the fashion houses other notable designers including Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano. Open 7 days a week from 10am-6:30 pm, this is truly a treat for the biggest of fashion lovers.

Via Le Relais du Louvre

7. Ferragamo Museo, Florence Italy

This museum is dedicated to Salvatore Ferragamo, the inventor of the wedge and the cage-heel, one of the greatest inventors when it comes to shoes of all time. The museum opened in 1995 in an effort to illustrate Ferragamo’s artistic qualities and the important role he played in the history of shoe design and international fashion. Much of his success came from Hollywood Starlets across the pond such as Marilyn Monroe.

The museum is host to photographs, sketches, books, magazines and over 10,000 models that were designed by him until 1960 when he passed away. The shoes are on a biennial rotation and are all works of refined craftsmanship. Visitors can marvel at the incredible display of shoes and step back into a true artist’s mind through the many artifacts displayed.

Via style.corriere.it

6. Costume Institute at the Met, New York City

For anyone interested in costume fashion, there is perhaps a no better place on earth than the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This museum is home to over 35,000 costumes and accessories ranging from the 15th century to the present and representing five continents.

It underwent a two-year renovation between 2012-2014 and has since reopened to the public with one more special exhibitions annually. Fashion-focused tours are available year-round that discuss costume history within the context of the Museum’s collection of armor, textiles, paintings and more with an audio guide. If you can attend the annual gala expect plenty of celebrities and high profile fashion designers.

Via amny.com

5. Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassen Museum), Amsterdam

It is the largest of its kind in the world, a fascinating story that features fashion, art, customs, and history. The museum also happens to be situated in a lovely canal house in the center of Amsterdam and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Canal Ring Area.

On display is the development of bags and purses from the Middle Ages to the present day and this is truly the only place in the world where you will find so many handbags in one spot. Featuring 17th-century-period rooms, the actual Versace bag used by Madonna, over 5,000 bags and purses, a lovely restaurant with a view of the gardens and guided tours, a trip here is well worth taking, especially if you just happen to love bags.

Via Afar

4. Museo De La Moda, Santiago, Chile

This privately operated fashion museum has an incredible permanent collection of Western clothing, particularly from the 20th century and is well known for a few key items. It is here where you can see John Lennon’s jacket from 1966, the cone bra that was designed for Madonna and an evening gown worn by Lady Diana in 1981. There are more than 10,000 pieces in this collection, with only a fraction on display at one time.

Temporary exhibits here are incredible and have ranged from a Michael Jackson tribute to a Mad Men 60’s theme. There are thousands of sketchbooks, photographs, and books on fashion and design that are also available to view as long as an appointment is made in advance. Opened in 2007, this fairly new museum is host to an impressive number of important fashion pieces.

Via juliensauctions.com

3. Museum at FIT, New York City

New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology has given the world incredible fashion stars and its museum is one of the only ones in the city that is open to the public. It hosts rotating exhibits that pull from the school’s impressive collection of one-of-a-kind pieces from designers such as Chanel, Alaia, and Halston. Not only does this museum feature exhibits but also talks, tours, lectures, book signings and fashion conversations with leading designers.

The permanent collection here encompasses over 50,00 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present, with an emphasis on avant-garde fashion. With three different galleries, a photographic studio, workshop, and conservation laboratory this is one impressive museum. Expect patrons here to be dressed to the nines while they check out the fashion.

Via RueBaRue

2. Gucci Museum, Florence

Guccio Gucci started the label in Florence in 1921 and it is fitting that in 2011 a museum devoted to this designed finally opened its doors. The museum provides a history of the Florentine fashion house, containing a permanent exhibit of the iconic pieces of the brand such as bags, clothes, and accessories.

Along with stunning evening gowns including ones worn by Hilary Swank, amusing exhibits such as monogrammed scuba diving flippers and early-edition monogrammed luggage, there is a contemporary art space which features incredible related exhibits. Black and white photographs line the staircase and a Gucci-upholstered car from the 70’s complete the picture here.

Via Florence Inferno

1. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It is the world’s largest museum dedicated to art and design and contains an incredible collection of costumes and applied arts from all over the world. It can be overwhelming at times to decide what to look at and taking the one-hour tour is a good way to get acquainted. The collections here range from Indian textiles to painful footwear but for the fashion lovers, heading to the fashion section should be first on the list.

It is here where you will find a 400-year span of men and women’s clothing and one gigantic collection of hats, after all this is Britain. Except for occasional special exhibits, this museum is actually free to visit as well. Check out 17th-century gowns, samurai armor and medieval love rings, all on display here at this incredible museum.

Via evelinakhromtchenko.com

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 8 Best Off the Beaten Path Honeymoon Destinations

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.

Photo by: Scott Dunn
Photo by: Scott Dunn

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.

Photo by: Hotel Antumalal Pucon Chile
Photo by: Hotel Antumalal Pucon Chile

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.

Photo by: Croft 103 / John Paul Photography
Photo by: Croft 103 / John Paul Photography

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.

Photo by: Luxury Collection Hotels and Resorts
Photo by: Luxury Collection Hotels and Resorts

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.

Port Antonio Jamaica

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.

Photo by: Adriana Spa Hotel
Photo by: Adriana Spa Hotel

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.

Photo by: Areias do Seixo Charm Hotel & Residences
Photo by: Areias do Seixo Charm Hotel & Residences

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.

Photo by: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Photo by: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

 

Best Snowshoe Destinations for Families

When you are looking for the perfect destination for a winter family getaway (that includes plenty of snowshoeing) there are so many options to consider. We have looked at hundreds of destinations and compiled a list of what we believe to be the best 10 snowshoe destinations for families. We examined factors such as location, ease of access to superior snowshoe trails, amenities for kids and parents and opportunity for guided and non-guided snowshoe treks. From luxury hotels to themed resorts there is a destination here to suit every families needs.

10. Ski Portillo, Chile

The first of two all-inclusive options on this list–Chile’s Ski Portillo resort; this once-in-a-lifetime vacation destination is the perfect spot for families to relax, bond and snowshoe. Overlooking a pristine lake and situated in the Aconcagua Valley in the heart of the Andes, the scenery is enough to make you want to hop on a plane right now. But this destination offers so much more than just magnificent views and a ski hill. Portillo offers two excellent lodging choices for families. They offer two access trails to the mountain, along with numerous opportunities to trek around the base of Mt. Aconcagua. This all-inclusive resort includes meals, lift tickets for your entire stay (we suggest trying your hand at some skiing), accommodations, airport transfers and all amenities on site. From the dedicated tubing hills and outdoor heated pool for the kids to the outdoor hot tub and nightly live music for the adults, this gem should not go undiscovered.

Photo by: Ski Portillo Chile via Facebook
Photo by: Ski Portillo Chile via Facebook

9. Adventure Suites – New Hampshire, USA

Our next destination is truly a kid’s paradise. If you are looking for a relaxing, unwinding vacation, this may not be the one for you. But if you are looking for something totally unique that will have your kids begging to come back, Adventure Suites is the place. Named one of the top 10 theme hotels in the world, this hotel offers more than just really awesome rooms. We first need to talk about the suites they offer. From a prehistoric cave suite that features a five-person hot tub in the suite to a jungle themed suite that offers an upstairs for the kids complete with a flat screen TV and PlayStation…it may be hard to want to leave your room. Adventure Suites offer guided snowshoe treks as an add-on to any stay and offers free trail passes if you stay two or more nights. If you are looking to get on your own, Glen Trails Outdoor Center and Purity Spring Resort offer extensive trails to explore.

Snowshoes

8. Hoshino Resort Tomamu, Japan

A huge resort featuring more than 800 rooms in two magnificent towers, an indoor wave pool, an ice village in the center of the resort (January-March) and unparalleled views of the mountain from your room makes Hoshino Resort Tomamu number eight on our list. Tunnels connect the towers to the restaurants and food court, which allow for warm ease of access during a cold night. Snowshoeing has become quite a popular sport in Japan and visiting the Polar Village Activity Center is where you will find all your snowshoe needs. Equipment rentals as well as maps of the area are provided. Members of the resort’s staff are happy to help and if you tell them what kind of difficulty or length of trek you are looking for they will point you in the right direction. With fresh powder, breathtaking scenery and an experience you won’t get in North America, Hoshino Resort is a fantastic choice for a family getaway.

Photo by: Hoshino Resorts Tomamu via Facebook
Photo by: Hoshino Resorts Tomamu via Facebook

7. Douglas Fir Resort and Chalets – Alberta, Canada

If you are looking for the finest family accommodation in Banff, look no further as Douglas Fir Resort and Chalet is where you want to be. Located a four-minute drive from downtown Banff in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the views from your patio will take your breath away. All rooms include complimentary WiFi, flat screen TVs, plug-and-play panels for personal gaming systems and a fireplace. What makes this resort even more family friendly is the indoor two-story playground, the indoor water park featuring two giant water slides and a “quiet time” for adults only, and an outdoor hot tub with views of the awe-inspiring mountains. There are unlimited snowshoe opportunities in Banff ranging from beginner to experienced. We highly recommend trekking around Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park and the Sundance Trail to Sundance Canyon. Parks Canada offers up suggestions here or check out a tour company for a guided experience.

Photo by: Douglas Fir Resort & Chalet via Facebook
Photo by: Douglas Fir Resort & Chalet via Facebook

6. Firelight Lodge – British Columbia, Canada

The Firelight Lodge, located in the Silver Star Mountain Village, is one of the newest properties to the village; Firelight is located right next to the skating pond and tube park. With access to 16 km of snowshoe exclusive forested trails, Silver Star Mountain is your perfect destinations. Firelight Lodge offers up your choice of rooms that can include anything from a personal outdoor hot tub to a gas fireplace and patio BBQ. An in-resort shuttle runs through the Firelight and Village areas of the resort making it easy to access all amenities and restaurants. Snowshoe rentals and trail passes/maps are available at Ski Dazzle Rentals or the Village Ski shop. The kids will go nuts for the tube park and mini snowmobiles, or perhaps they will try their hand at the indoor climbing wall or ski-in ski-out bowling alley. Parents can relax in the outdoor hot tub, visit one of the pubs or unwind at the Yoga classes offered next door to the lodge.

shutterstock_123342973

5. Crystal Mountain – Michigan, USA

Crystal Mountain Resort in Michigan is a compact resort that offers older kids a chance for independence as condos, restaurants and amenities are within a five-minute walk. For the wee ones with the tired legs, there is a complimentary shuttle to take you where you want to go. With more than 250 rooms ranging from the standard hotel room to bungalows to full houses, the accommodations at Crystal Mountain are superior. Snowshoeing is permitted on the entire Crystal Mountain property, except for the downhill runs and the cross-country ski trails. Equipment rental and trail maps are provided on-site as well as guided tours. For something a little different take a trek Michigan Legacy Art Park where ice sculptures line the way. Moonlight snowshoe tours are a popular activity at Crystal Mountain and a fun way to explore nature in the dark.

Photo by: Crystal Mountain
Photo by: Crystal Mountain

4. The Lodge at Sugar Bowl – California, USA

The Lodge at Sugar Bowl is not your typical family resort. Here you won’t find huge flat screen TVs, gaming systems or world-class children’s programs. Here you will find the country’s only snowbound lodging experience, where you park your car in a garage and whisk up to the lodge in a gondola with your luggage. There are many different room options ranging from standard Mountain View rooms to family suites and adjoining rooms. The lodge also boasts a dining room, bar and new athletic center. But what you are really coming here for is the miles upon miles on snowshoe trails at Royal Gorge. Located right outside your front door you have access to North America’s largest cross-country resort that features an array of exclusive snowshoe trails. Rentals and trail passes are available at the Summit Station Lodge where you can also rent a sled to pull the little ones along the trails with you.

Photo by: Sugar Bowl Resort via Facebook
Photo by: Sugar Bowl Resort via Facebook

3. Waldorf Astoria Park City – Utah, USA

If you are looking for a luxury family getaway, Waldorf Astoria Park City in Utah is where you will want to head. With more than 4,000 acres of varied terrain in the backyard, this resort was meant to be explored. Dedicated shuttles will take you to local dining, skiing, shopping and entertainment. We do recommend this destination for kids 10 and up. Ranging from standard guest rooms to three bedroom suites with full kitchens, this resort offers such pleasures as upscale bathrooms with hot tubs and TVs, a free gondola up to Canyons Resort and free kids s’mores at night. Guided snowshoe tours are provided at Canyons Resort (a free shuttle ride away) where equipment can be rented. You can also go off on your own around the Canyons Resort and follow the marked trails. If you are looking to explore other areas, we recommend checking out Snowshoe Utah where you will find a variety of trail maps.

Photo by: Waldorf Astoria Park City via Facebook
Photo by: Waldorf Astoria Park City via Facebook

2. C Lazy U Ranch – Colorado, USA

If you are looking for a vacation that combines the love of the outdoors, breathtaking scenery and a chance for the kids and you to learn something new, C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado is the perfect destination. From horseback riding to sledding to ice skating to snowshoeing, this dude ranch is the perfect all-inclusive winter wonderland. Choose from cabins that include refrigerators, stone fireplaces or separate bedrooms for the older kids. Enjoy the personal touches such as daily housekeeping service, bed turn down, coffee and tea, plush robes and a fruit basket that is replenished each day. Now let’s talk about the snowshoeing. A popular winter activity at this resort, all equipment is offered for no extra charge and a trail map is provided on request. From beginner to expert, there are trails to suit any level of experience. Other activities include skating, sleigh rides, sledding, snowmobiling, skiing and so much more.

Photo by: C Lazy U Ranch via Facebook
Photo by: C Lazy U Ranch via Facebook

1. Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Vermont, USA

Rated as the granddaddy of all family resorts, it is no surprise that Smugglers’ Notch Resort ranks No. 1 on our top 10 list. From the huge fun zone offering an arcade, slides and after-dark teen programs to the heated indoor pool to the massages for mom and dad, Smugglers’ has gone above and beyond what one expects from a resort. Upon booking your vacation you will have the choice of condominium style lodgings. Each are either within walking distance or an on-demand resort shuttle is available to take you to all the village amenities. The Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Adventure Center is where you want to head for all your snowshoe needs. Here you will find 24 km of dedicated snowshoe trails to explore off the beaten path. If lessons are what you are looking for, they offer both group and private lessons with equipment rental on-site. For a memorable snowshoe experience try the snowshoe adventure dinner; a dining experience atop Sterling Mountain with a 40-minute snowshoe after dinner back to the base lodge.

Photo by: Smugglers' Notch Vermont
Photo by: Smugglers’ Notch Vermont

The 7 Best Stargazing Spots in the Southern Hemisphere

If there’s one thing humans across the globe have been doing since time immemorial, it’s looking up at the dark night sky and feeling awe. The movements of celestial bodies in the heavens have filled us with both curiosity and a sense of beauty, sometimes coupled with insignificance and loneliness. Gazing up at the stars can be a humbling, mystifying experience and the southern hemisphere is actually better situated to gaze into our home galaxy, the Milky Way. These 7 destinations provide some of the best stargazing experiences in the southern half of the globe:

7. Wiruna -Australia

Wiruna isn’t an International Dark-Sky Association-certified site, but it is an area in New South Wales that has been specifically designated for stargazers. Since 1993, in May of each year, astronomers of all stripes, from professionals to amateurs, gather here amid the eucalyptus to celebrate the South Pacific Star Party. The Astronomical Society of New South Wales owns the land and provides observation facilities, as well as accommodations for stargazers from around the world. Wiruna is near Ilford, about 220 kilometers northwest of Sydney. The area is considered one of the premier stargazing sites in Australia and, indeed, the world over. Although the ASNSW does hold some open nights, Wiruna is generally open only to ASNSW members, members of other astronomical societies and their guests. The society also has an observatory nearby, where they hold some of their public open nights.

Photo by: Marriott
Photo by: Marriott

6. Cape Town -South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa, is the home of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO). Founded in 1972 and operated by the National Research Foundation of South Africa, the SAAO has a number of telescopes and serves as a link for global scientific and technological collaboration. The primary telescopes, including the South African Large Telescope (SALT), are located at the Sutherland site, some 370 kilometers from the Cape Town site. While the SAAO may seem like it’s too technical for amateur astronomers, it hosts open nights throughout the year when visitors can talk to scientists. Open nights are held twice monthly, on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month, beginning at 8 p.m. Guided tours through the facility’s museums are also available. Here, you can see the Crux constellation and in April 2015, the SAAO discovered the first comet in South Africa in 35 years.

Photo by: SAAO
Photo by: SAAO

5. NambiRand Nature Reserve -Nambia

The NambiRand Nature Reserve in Nambia is one of the southern hemisphere’s few certified Dark Sky reserves and the only one in Africa. It was officially designated by the IDA in 2012. The park is a large private preserve, one of the largest in Africa, that operates primarily on the proceeds of low-impact tourism. Run by the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust Centre, the reserve was established to protect and conserve the unique ecology of the Namib Desert. The NaDEET Centre runs programs to educate guests about the environment, including the sky. Overnight programs give visitors the opportunity to sleep in open-air units at the Soussusvlei Desert Lodge where they can view the stunning night sky in one of the darkest locations on the planet. Trail guides are trained in aspects of astronomy, which they share with guests as they take in views of the night sky.

Photo by: FramePool
Photo by: FramePool

4. Uluru -Australia

While Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) isn’t designated as a Dark Sky Reserve by the IDA, it is undoubtedly one of the best stargazing spots in Australia. While the inselberg is stunning by day and most famous for its red glow at dawn and dusk, stick around after hours to witness an amazing display across the nighttime canopy. Part of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and a scared place for the Anangu people, Uluru lies more than 300 kilometers from the nearest large town, Alice Springs. That means the surrounding area is relatively free of light pollution. The area is easily accessible by highway. Uluru rises to a height of 863 m (2,831 ft), meaning that you can get above any potential light from vehicles along the highway—and get just a little bit closer to the stars. Look for the Milky Way, the Southern Cross and the aurora australis.

Photo by: Ayers Rock Resort
Photo by: Ayers Rock Resort

3. Kruger National Park -South Africa

One of the largest game reserves on the African continent is also one of the best places to view the southern night skies. The park is home to 9 different trails, some of which require overnight stays in the park to traverse. There are several camps and lodges in the park as well, where visitors can rest up overnight before heading out again. The wilderness areas of the park are virtually untouched by humans. Kruger also connects with parks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Much of Kruger’s landscape is flat savannah and bushveld, and the park is remote enough that light pollution isn’t a concern here. At dusk each day, astronomy tours depart from Singita Game Reserves in the far east end of the park. Visitors should look for the Southern Cross, Scorpio and, if you’re lucky, the rings of Saturn.

Photo by: Amazing Telescopes
Photo by: Amazing Telescopes

2. Atacama Desert -Chile

One of the largest deserts in the world, the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is world-renowned for how dry it is; it’s reportedly the driest place on earth. People have compared parts of it to Mars, leading to film producers filming scenes set on Mars in this location and even NASA using it as a test site for eventual Mars missions. But the Atacama’s unique landscape also make it one of the best stargazing locations in the world. The harsh climate has discouraged people from settling in the desert, meaning there’s little threat of light pollution. The desert’s elevation and its location in the rainshadow of not 1, but 2 mountain chains mean it doesn’t even have clouds on most nights, leaving the sky clear and bright. Add in the fact that the Atacama is located in the southern hemisphere and you have a winning combination that draws astronomers from around the world.

Atacama Desert Chile Telescopes

1. Aoraki Mackenzie -New Zealand

Located on New Zealand’s South Island, Aoraki Mackenzie is another IDA-certified Dark Sky Reserve comprising Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin. Lighting control started in the 1980s to minimize light pollution experienced by Mt. John Observatory. Since then, lighting control has been used to protect wildlife, promote nightsky tourism and even preserve Maori culture, as the indigenous peoples of the island used the stars to navigate the island and incorporated them in their lore. Since 2012, Aoraki has been a Dark Sky Reserve, but it has long been recognized as one of the best stargazing places on earth—turning the area into a reserve ensures that Aoraki stays that way for future generations. The Hillary Deck offers telescopes for visitors, allowing a more up-close look at the heavenly bodies. Big Sky Stargazing offers an orientation at the Digital Dome Planetarium, introducing features of the southern night sky.

Photo by: Rob Dickinson
Photo by: Rob Dickinson

Chasing Summer: 10 Escapes From Winter

Autumn has arrived in the northern hemisphere and with it, a sense of sadness for many people. Whether you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or just like the long, hot days of summer, this time of year can be rough. But we often forget that just because it’s fall here doesn’t mean it’s fall everywhere. The southern hemisphere’s seasons are reversed, meaning countries on the other side of the equator experience their spring and summer while the north moves through fall and winter. If you want to follow the sun, these 10 destinations should help you escape:

10. Seychelles

Whether or not you’re trying to escape the cold of winter, the Seychelles should be on your bucket list. This African nation, comprised of a number of individual tropical islands, is warm just about any time of the year. Temperatures reach their peak between December and April, with March and April recording the warmest temperatures of the year, usually in the high 80s (low 30s Celsisu). Although the climate can be humid, especially between December and April, the islands are not usually affected by high winds or tropical storms. The islands have a reputation as “paradise,” and renowned for a diversity of plants and animals, gorgeous landscapes, great beaches and plentiful outdoor activities. Visit any time between September and April if you’re looking to get away from the northern hemisphere’s fall and winter.

Seychelles

9. Indonesia

If you’re trying to chase summer, you shouldn’t jump south of the equator right away. September through December is spring in the south, so save those destinations for later. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to get away from the increasing hours of darkness and the frosty weather autumn brings with it, an equatorial destination should be your first consideration. Indonesia lies along the equator and, like many equatorial areas, it experiences 2 season: a dry season and a monsoon season. The temperature varies little throughout the course of the year (averaging 26 degrees Celsius), and the length of the day is relatively constant: there is only 48 minutes difference between the longest and shortest days of the year. That’s good news for anyone looking to escape the longer nights of autumn and winter in the north. September and October are good months to visit Indonesia; the rainy season starts in November.

Bali, Indonesia

8. French Polynesia

With over 100 islands and atolls, the overseas collective of French Polynesia makes an excellent destination for those travelers looking to get away from chilly weather in northern climes. The islands, the most famous of which are Tahiti and Bora Bora, have well-developed tourist industries and they are often equated with tropical paradise. There are 4 volcanic islands and 1 coral island in the 5 archipelagos. Both Tahiti and Bora Bora are volcanic, and both provide opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as other water activities. The temperature on the French Polynesia islands varies little from season to season; December through February are the wettest months, however. If you can, travel to these islands in September, October or November when temperatures are still warm but rainfall is significantly less.

Bora Bora 5

7. Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe might seem like a strange choice; the country has experienced some political and economic instability in the past decade. But these 2 African islands are rich in culture, history and ecology, which make them great destinations for travelers looking to get off the beaten path. The 2 islands, located about 87 miles apart, lie approximately 150 miles off the coast of Gabon. The influence of Portuguese colonizers is still evident in the country’s religious and linguistic traditions, but music and cuisine better reflect a fusion of African and Portuguese heritages. The islands are part of the Cameroon volcanic mountain line, and the tallest peak is Pico de Principe at over 3,000 feet. The equator passes over an islet just south of Sao Tome island, which means the climate is tropical and temperatures hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

Sao Tome and Principe Africa

6. Brazil

It’s hard to make generalizations about climate in a country as big and diverse as Brazil, but here’s what you need to know: the average temperature is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (around 25 degrees Celsius) and the temperature difference between night and day is more significant than changes in the seasons. That said, Brazil is home to more than 5 different climate types, and part of the country actually lies north of the equator. Rainfall between December and April can be quite significant, especially in the Amazon region, which is humid but rarely exceeds temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). The various microclimates make Brazil one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, which means there’s plenty to see in all of Brazil’s ecozones. Or, if an Amazon trek doesn’t suit you, the country’s Atlantic coast is home to some excellent beaches.

Ipanema beach Brazil

5. Galapagos

At first glance, you might think the Galapagos Islands, scattered on either side of the equator as they are, would be perfect candidates for an autumnal escape between September and December. In fact, it’s better to visit the Galapagos in December or later, because of the effects of the Humboldt Current, which brings cold water to the islands. Between June and November, the islands experience frequent drizzle, cold winds and cool temperatures. It still rains during the other 6 months of the year, but the temperatures are warmer and the sun shines more frequently. For that reason, the Galapagos make an excellent winter destination; they teem with life at any time of year, from finches to tortoises to penguins. Bird-watching is especially popular, and many species nest between December and May.

Galapagos Islands

4. Fiji

The Melanesian island-nation of Fiji is a dream destination for a lot of people. Located near Vanuatu, Tonga and the Samoas, among others, the island is something of a tropical paradise. With an advanced tourism industry, Fiji offers a great escape from wintery weather in the northern latitudes. Located in the South Pacific, the island is renowned for outdoor activities like scuba diving and ocean kayaking. Fiji has a number of white-sand beaches, which are attractive to visitors. Perhaps the best thing about the island-nation is its climate: there is little seasonal variation, so the weather is warm year-round. November through April is considered the “warm” season, with temperatures slightly higher than the rest of the year, so consider Fiji a romantic escape from frigid temperatures and snowfall in more northerly places.

Fiji Jetty

3. Chile

Chile lies in the southern hemisphere and throughout most of the country, there are 4 seasons. Here, the seasons are inverse to the northern hemisphere, which means you can take off from winter north of the equator and land in Chilean summer. Chile is a diverse country, though, spanning no less than 7 different climatic subtypes, from the dry Atacama desert in the north to alpine tundra in the extreme south. The Andes also run through the country, offering up even more diverse climes. The warmest month is February and rainfall during the summer months is minimal throughout much of the country—something noted by European explorers to the area in the 1500s. Clear nights in the Atacama Desert make for great star-gazing. Or why not embark on a wine tour in Central Chile’s vineyards?

Vineyard Chile

2. Australia

Australia is likely the first place anyone thinks of when we talk about the southern hemisphere; the land down under has a certain reputation with folks in the north. While it’s true that the continent is protected from the wintry airmasses that sweep across northerly continents, which minimizes the impact of seasonal change on temperature, summer is still inverse to the northern hemisphere. That means that you can visit Australia between December and February and experience not winter, but summer weather. Temperatures are usually in the high 70s to low 90s (mid-20s to low 30s Celsius), which means you can get outside and enjoy all of your favorite summertime activities. Or maybe a trip down under is a chance to try something new, like surfing at Broad Beach or trailblazing through the Outback.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

1. Maldives

The Maldives are perhaps most infamous for slowly sinking thanks to rising sea levels, but they also have a reputation as a tourist destination. The Maldives are a chain of 1,192 coral islands in a double atoll, and, as such, the country is one of the most geographically dispersed in the world. Located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India and Sri Lanka, the islands experience a tropical-monsoon type climate. January through March provides the best time to visit the islands, as temperatures hover in the high 80s (around 30 degrees Celsius) and rainfall is at its lowest for the year; February is the driest month of the year. The islands are famed for their blue lagoons and white beaches, which have traditionally driven tourism, but they are also becoming a hotspot for ecotourism as the country attempts to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2020.

Maldives sunset

Outside Magazine’s Travel Awards 2015

In March, Outside magazine minted the winners of their 2015 travel awards, passing out awards from best island to best Airbnb, hoping to inspire readers’ summer travel plans. Even with summer now drawing to a close in the northern hemisphere, it’s not too late to get outside and enjoy some of the best outdoor adventures, whether in some far-flung corner of the earth or in your own backyard. We’ve selected 15 of the best adventures you could still squeeze in to get the most out of your summer—or start planning for next year.

15. Montana’s Wild West Adventure

The 21st century has been the century of environmental concern. At first glance, enjoying America’s West like a 19th-century traveler seems far-removed from that concern, but it’s thanks to conservation efforts that you can enjoy a Wild West-style camping trip in northeast Montana. The area is home to a 305,000-acre reserve which conservationists are hoping to turn into an American “Serengeti,” where the deer and the buffalo do roam. Buffalo Camp has 11 campsites available for just $10 per night. If you’re looking for a little more luxury, Kestrel Camp offers travelers the option to rent 1 of 5 yurts, each equipped with air conditioning and a hot shower. Either way, you’ll sleep soundly after spending the day paddling the river or mountain biking by abandoned farms.

Montana

14. Roadtripping in India

The roadtrip is a classic way to spend an American summer; for many, it’s a rite of passage. But why stick to domestic shores when you could use your roadtrip to explore some of the world’s most stunning mountain views? Book a 10-day trip with Mercury Himalayan Explorations and see a new side of India, far away from throngs of people in busy urban markets and gawping tourist crowds. Your trip will take you through the foothills of the majestic Himalayans, replete with narrow, dangerous mountain roads and stunning views. Not up for mountains? The company also offers a trip through the sand dunes of Rajasthan. Don’t worry, though—a mechanic will be right behind you.

Photo by: Mercury Himalayan Explorations
Photo by: Mercury Himalayan Explorations

13. Conquer the San Juan Mountains

You needn’t go as far as India to encounter mountains, of course. The American West is full of soaring peaks, courtesy of the Rocky Mountains. To fully appreciate dazzling new heights, trek through the San Juan mountains on your bike. Start your trip in Durango, Colorado, and make your way some 200-plus miles to Moab, Utah. The trip isn’t for the faint of heart; the elevation rises to 25,000 feet between start and finish. The going is not easy, but for those who want a challenge, this is a rewarding one—the top of the mountains provides an excellent perch to get a new perspective on life. Once you’ve completed the trek, there’s no doubt you’ll agree that the stunning vistas are well-worth the effort.

San Juan Mountains Colorado

12. A New Spin on the Classic Safari

Much like the roadtrip epitomizes American summer, the safari is a classic way to explore Africa’s wilderness. The oft-maligned trip has been given new life in Kenya, thanks to Sandy and Chip Cunningham. The 11-day Ultimate Conservation Safari takes you to Campi Ya Kanzi, a 300,000-acre stretch of wilderness in the shadows of Kilimanjaro. You’re hosted by local Masai in a campsite that uses solar for its power needs. The trip also takes you to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant orphanage, which reminds us of the harmful effects of poaching and the importance of protecting earth’s amazing creatures. This safari is all about learning all we can about amazing world around us in an eco-friendly and sustainable way.

Photo by: Ultimate Conservation Safari
Photo by: Ultimate Conservation Safari

11. Road Trip the Golden State—on a Bike

If you can’t get away to far-flung locales like India or Africa, you can take yet another spin on the classic American roadtrip. This one is eco-friendly, much like the Kenyan safari experience, and it will take you through all the Golden State has to offer, from the edges of the Pacific to dizzying heights in the mountains in the Sierra Nevada. California’s environment can be biked almost year-round, which means you don’t need to wait for summer to roll around (unless you want to do the annual Death Ride through the mountains). This can be an economical trip too—route maps are available free from organizations like the California Bicycle Coalition.

biking san francisco

10. Dive Deep in Cuba

Maybe you’re not the type who likes to climb tall mountains or drive (or ride) through the landscape. In fact, maybe you’re not interested in the terrestial landscape, and the depths of the ocean intrigue you. If so, then you’ll want to pay a visit to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen National Park, a no-take fishing zone and marine protected area. Located 60 miles off Cuba’s coast, the park contains some 250 coral and mangrove islands. Only 1,000 divers per year are admitted to the area, where you can encounter some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs and swim alongside sea turtles, goliath groupers, whale sharks and sperm whales.

Giant Grouper

9. Cruise Doubtful Sound

Maybe you don’t like going under the water. Or maybe you’re hoping to hit up a more exotic locale. New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound is the place for you, with a 70-person cruise on a 3-masted sailboat. Book a tour with Real Journeys and you’ll cruise into the sound and experience its surreal landscapes: lush forests overhanging sheer cliffs with towering waterfalls pouring over the edge, pods of dolphins playing in the water below. You might even spot a Fiordland penguin. You’ll want to bring your camera for sure, although pictures may not be able to do the place justice. The more adventuresome might join other passengers in leaping into the water off the rear deck of the boat—but be warned, the waters can be cold!

Doubtful Sound

8. Paddle through Fiji

For many, Fiji defines tropical paradise. The island is rich in environmental treasures, not the least of which is the 18-mile-long Upper Navua River Gorge, 10 miles of which has been protected as a conservation area since 2000. Paddle along the palm-lined river and take in the sheer cliffs and the cascading waterfalls. The area is maintained by Rivers Fiji in conjunction with landowners, villagers, the Native Land Trust Board and a timber company. You can continue on to the Middle Navua by kayak, which will take a couple of days to complete. You’ll arrive in Beqa Lagoon, where opportunities for sea-kayaking and snorkeling abound. White sand beaches and coral reefs also beckon to travelers who want to balance adventure with relaxation.

Kayak Fiji

7. A Safari in Greenland

Greenland is probably one of the last places anyone would think of to go on safari, but the trek offered by Natural Habitat Adventures takes a page straight out of the safari handbook and offers guests hot showers and gourmet meals prepared by a chef. The company’s eco-base camp is located on the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet on Sermilik Fjord, where 5,000-foot peaks plunge into the sea. On offer are opportunities to kayak alongside humpback whales, hike through 10 miles of tundra with a guide and visit Inuit villagers and experience their centuries-old traditions. Even though the temperatures in polar bear country remain low throughout the year, travelers will be awed by the beauty of the Arctic.

Photo by: Natural Habitat Adventures
Photo by: Natural Habitat Adventures

6. Experience Paddleboarding in Belize

Belize has long been a haven for snorkelers and divers, thanks to the country’s 180-mile-long barrier reef. Now Belize is also home to the world’s first lodge-to-lodge paddleboarding adventure. The trek, offered by Island Expeditions, takes you through the 118,000-acre Southwater Caye Marine Reserve. On the 6-day excursion, you’ll paddle 4 to 8 miles per day, making stops to snorkel with spotted eagle rays and barracuda and even snorkel at night to see coral in bloom after dark. Other stops along the way include a Garifuna fishing camp, Tobacco Caye and the private Southwater Caye with its 12 acres of white sand beaches against the backdrop of the calm, turquoise waters and the barrier reef.

Photo by: Island Expeditions
Photo by: Island Expeditions

5. Apres-Ski in New Mexico

You might not think of skiing when someone mentions New Mexico, but the state’s famous West Basin chutes, near Kachina Peak in Taos, have a bit of Old World charm. It might not be the Alps, but it’s about as close as you get in the southern Rockies; you can even stop at the Bavarian Lodge, a ski-in, ski-out chalet, to grab some authentic German fare before hitting the slopes or for apres-ski. Visiting before ski season is in swing? Not to worry; trails to Williams Lake and the 13,159-foot Wheeler Mountain, New Mexico’s highest peak, offer plenty of opportunity for some outdoor adventure.

Photo by: Bavarian Lodge
Photo by: Bavarian Lodge

4. Domestic Adventure in North Carolina

North Carolina is underrated when it comes to getting outside in the U.S. It has beaches and mountains much like California, minus the throngs of tourists and the elitism that pervades some parts of the Golden State. The Croatan National Forest offers paddleboarders 160,000 acres to explore, while the beaches offer up some of the East Coast’s best surf spots. Singletrack and road riding attracts world-class talent to the Blue Ridge mountains, where some train for races like the Tour de France, and the 13-mile Big Avery Loop offers mountain bikers a serious challenge. For hikers, 96 miles of the Appalachian Trail crosses through the state, and the Nantahala Outdoor Center offers up access to some of America’s best white-water adventures.

Photo by: Nantahala Outdoor Center/ Charlie Williams Photography
Photo by: Nantahala Outdoor Center/ Charlie Williams Photography

3. International Adventure in Chile

If North Carolina sounds a little too pedestrian for your adventure, you can always seek out international adventure. One of the best places to find an outdoor excursion is in Chile, which is 80% Andes mountains. The country is home to some wild spaces, like the 650,000-acre Patagonia National Park in the extreme southern sub-arctic clime, or the 370,000-acre Yendegaia National Park, a former cattle ranch. Or check out the Atacama Desert, where you can ride through the almost-alien landscape on horseback and take in some of the clearest skies on Earth. Another option is the Vina Vik, a retreat and wine spa in Millahue Valley. There are 65 miles of vineyard roads to be explored in this 11,000-acre Andean retreat.

Patagonia National Park

2. Bicycle Adventures for Families

Maybe you want to take the family on the adventure of a lifetime and some of the trips mentioned just aren’t kid-friendly or are too costly if you need to foot the bill for multiple people. Bicycle Adventures is one of the best outfitters to turn to if you need a domestic trip for kids of all ages. Infants and toddlers can ride along in provided trailers, while younger riders’ bikes can be hitched to adult bikes. About 10% of their trips are geared specifically toward families with preteens. New multi-day rides through Oregon, Idaho and South Dakota follow car-free bike paths and take you near attractions like Mount Rushmore and the Trail of the Hiawatha. Kids will appreciate stops for ice cream, rafting and swimming.

Photo by: Bicycle Adventures
Photo by: Bicycle Adventures

1. Wilderness Travel’s Outfitted Trips

If you want to do something no one else has ever done, you’ll want to team up with Wilderness Travel. The team, based in Berkeley, California, has been pioneering trips that other outfitters later copy for some 37 years. Think kayaking trips through Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America and organizing the world’s highest trek, through Tibet at 23,000 feet. All of the outfitter’s trips are designed to support locals and minimize the trip’s environmental impact as well. New trips available from Wilderness Travel include visiting little-known pyramids in Sudan, sea-kayaking and camping in Palau and tracking lions in Namibia with guide Flip Stander, who has spent decades living with the big cats.

Photo by: Wildreness Travel
Photo by: Wildreness Travel

15 of the Best Outdoor Hotel Pools in the World

Outdoor hotel pools don’t need to be square concrete blocks, littered with screaming children and leaves that haven’t been scrapped off the bottom, which are normally freezing cold. In fact, outdoor hotel pools can be downright beautiful. From the ever popular infinity pools that look over the sides of cliffs, to rooftop pools so high up you forget what lies below; these outdoor pools are wonderfully unique in their own ways. Discover 15 of our favorite outdoor pools, and before long you will be booking a night, just to try out the pool.

15. Hotel Caruso -Salerno, Italy

This open-air infinity pool is brilliantly blue in color and creates the perfect atmosphere for hotel guests to relax. The pool is set atop the highest point of Ravello, seemingly suspended in the clouds, halfway between heaven and earth. It overlooks the breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Getting to the pool is just as beautiful as the pool itself as guests will have to wander through a rose garden. Complete with medieval ruins towering beside the pool, you will simply feel as you have fallen back in time. Make sure to indulge in the fresh-fruit appetizers that will be delivered to you poolside, or request a pre-loaded iPod with your choice of music. A visitor here can even get an Evian vaporizer delivered to them while they are in the pool. This is luxury at its finest.

Photo by: Belmond Hotel Caruso
Photo by: Belmond Hotel Caruso

14. The Oberoi Udaivilas -Udaipur, India

Spread over a 50 acre wildlife preserve is this wonderful hotel in India that features not one but two impressive pools. Guests here will be privy to amazing scenery, wildlife and exceptional service. The first pool runs lengthwise along the interconnecting domes and corridors that make up the hotel. This 70-foot pool is for guests that are staying in one of the semi-private pool rooms that allow access to this wonderful pool right from the room door. Private pool rooms are also available for those guests wanting their own private 36 foot plunge pool complete with dining area. The main pool at this hotel is stunning in deep blue tiles, set within a Mewar style courtyard with lush green lawns. The sandstone and marble tile patterns set off the sapphire blue color and truly make it a majestically centerpiece for this hotel.

Photo by: scupperssf via Flickr
Photo by: scupperssf via Flickr

13. Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti -Serengeti, Tanzania

As if staying at a safari lodge isn’t enough of an amazing experience, the Four Seasons have upped the ante with this awesome outdoor pool. This large sparkling blue free-form infinity pool is among favorites of visitors to this awesome safari lodge. The pool is the perfect break from your safari adventure, although it may not feel like much of a break from wildlife sightings as you watch over the watering hole that brings elephants, lions and other wildlife up close and personal. Relax in the cool waters, grab a cocktail from sunrise to sunset or relax in one of the sun beds on the deck. Watching a sunset from here is a favorite activity as the sky turns a brilliant pink and orange while the sun disappears. At night enjoy a romantic dinner poolside, complete with candles, lanterns and excellent dining options.

Photo by: Roman Boed via Flickr
Photo by: Roman Boed via Flickr

12. The Library -Koh Samui Island, Thailand

Located just a few steps away from the white sandy beaches is a pool that shines so brilliantly red, one would think that the water is dyed to be that color. This signature red pool is absolutely stunning to the naked eye and swimming here is an unforgettable experience. We promise, you aren’t swimming in dark crimson blood, although we admit it looks like that from a distance. It is in fact the stunning mosaic tiles that make it look so red, as the combination of the red, orange and yellow present a dazzling spectacle of brilliant color. This shallow pool is perfect for relaxing and gazing out at the beautiful blue water. The Library is also the only five-star hotel in Chaweng Beach and in addition to the amazing pool, the hotel itself is wonderful.

Photo by: The Library
Photo by: The Library

11. The Sarojin -Phang Nga, Thailand

This enchanting hotel is only reached by a hidden pathway and borders on five national parks, as well as a long sandy beach. The pool itself is surrounded by lush green gardens and tropical foliage and shimmers a gorgeous turquoise color under the bright sun. Private cabanas are placed in the shallow waters and come complete with sun beds, umbrellas, curtains that can be closed for privacy, towels and bar service. The blue mosaic tiles, the large vases growing beautiful flowers and the steps leading into the deeper water all make this pool incredibly beautiful. With warm water, a serene setting and a private cabana; you may never want to leave this hotel.

Photo by: Roderick Eime via Flickr
Photo by: Roderick Eime via Flickr

10. The Grace Santorini -Santorini, Greece

This exquisite infinity pool is the largest of its kind in Santorini and offers breathtaking views of the sea below. In typical Santorini fashion, the pool is outfitted in white and blue, a perfect combination of simplicity yet style. Chairs and table are places around the pool, at staggering heights to allow for the unparalleled views of the surrounding hills and water. The pool features both a shallow and deep end, for any type of swimmer. Make sure to check out the infamous Santorini sunsets that occur nightly, either from inside the pool or from the chairs. Food and beverage service is available around the pool all day and evening, and visitors are encouraged to spend their days enjoying it.

Photo by: Grace Hotels
Photo by: Grace Hotels

9. San Alfonso del Mar -Valparaiso, Chile

It holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crystalline pool, measuring over one kilometer in length, eight hectares and holds more than 250 million liters of water. Apart from the sheer size of it, the waters here are an amazing turquoise color and have the same transparency of those in the Caribbean. The water also happens to be an amazing 26 degrees Celsius in the summertime, the absolute perfect temperature for splashing around. The white sand beaches here are private to each of the buildings and recreate a tropical paradise. During the day you will find kids snorkeling, sailing in small boats and many recreational activities taking place in the biggest pool on earth. Make sure you book your room into one of the buildings that has access to the private beaches and pool, as some do not.

Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock.com
Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock.com

8. Amangani -Jackson Hole, United States

This legendary resort is Jackson Hole’s most exclusive resorts and it set seven thousand feet above sea level, carved into the hillside at Gros Ventre Butte. The 100-foot heated swimming pool operates year round and offers stunning views of Wyoming’s snow-capped peaks. During the summer visitors enjoy lounging in the crystal clear waters, taking in the surrounding scenery and watching out for wildlife, all with a cocktail in hand. During the winter guests take advantage of both the warm pool and the attached hot tub, which comes in handy after a long day of skiing in the area. At night the candles are lit and there is no where better to enjoy a bottle of wine than this awesome luxury pool.

Amangani, Wyoming

7. B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa -Zurich, Switzerland

This trendy 60-room boutique hotel features open spaces and a fabulous rooftop pool. It was once a 150 year old brewery. The hotel has managed to keep the aged stone walls and has refurbished the valves and bolts as clever décor elements. The natural thermal pool on the roof is really what visitors here love though. This uniquely shaped pool offers visitors unparalleled views over the city of Zurich, especially during the night. The pool is divided into different zones, all featuring different jets that relax and unwind you. There are enough nooks and crannies here that everyone can have their privacy. Although there are no surrounding loungers or service staff; the experience is unlike any other rooftop pool experience.

Photo by: B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa
Photo by: B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa

6. Marina Bay Sands Tower Pool -Singapore, Indonesia

It is hailed as the world’s largest rooftop pool at its height and sits high above the city of Singapore on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. If you don’t like heights, you may want to avoid this pool as it is 55 storey’s up in the air and more than three times the length of an Olympic pool. Did we mention that this pool is an infinity pool? This pool is part of the Sands SkyPark, a park that spans over all three hotel buildings and offers shops, restaurants and observation decks to the public. Building the SkyPark was one of the most expensive construction projects in history and once you see it, you can believe it. Unfortunately for the general public, the infinity pool is just open to hotel guests. With plenty of sun loungers, umbrellas, palm trees and dining choices, it is easy to spend an entire day on top of the world here.

Victor Maschek / Shutterstock.com
Victor Maschek / Shutterstock.com

5. Ubud Hanging Gardens -Bali, Indonesia

It is one of the most photographed pools in the world and it is no wonder why, as the architecture here is absolutely stunning. This pool won’t be for the faint of heart though as it jets out from the hotel, high above the treetops. It is a split-level infinity pool, the top half featuring a huge deck that flows out from the hotel. The bottom half is almost hidden from sight and creates the feeling of having a private atmosphere, complete with a waterfall. The curved pools were designed to replicate the steep terraced rice paddies that are such an iconic feature of this area of the world. There are a variety of benches and sun chairs around the pool and service staff is more than happy to bring guests food and drink. For the true romantic, you can even eat dinner on a floating dock in the lower level of this awesome infinity pool.

Photo by: Hanging Gardens UBUD
Photo by: Hanging Gardens UBUD

4. Habita Monterrey -San Pendro Garza Garcia, Mexico

These pools are located on the rooftop terrace of this modern boutique hotel and offer guests stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The infinity style pools run the length of the rooftop with a bar and eating area running down the middle to separate them. One of the pools is warm and perfect for relaxing while the other is slightly cooler and draws more swimmers serious about swimming laps. The concrete canopy above ensures that you aren’t sweltering up here and there is no better place to grab a cocktail after your swim than from the friendly bartender up on the roof, willing to make you just about anything you desire.

Photo by:  Hotel MTY
Photo by: Hotel MTY

3. Kempinski Hotel Ishtar -Amman, Jordan

This five star luxury hotel is situated on the edge of the famous salt lake, the Dead Sea and provides unlimited views across the sea. This resort doesn’t just offer one amazing pool though, it offers nine. The most popular pool here is the lazy river, which takes visitors around the resort. The sunken pool is the perfect place to relax, offering guests a fireplace in the middle and fringed with palm trees along the sides. The round infinity pool though is perhaps the most visually impressive and offers load of space to visitors looking to take a dip. All the pools here are surrounded by plush sun beds, extraordinary scenery and excellent service. It’s too hard to narrow down which of these pools is the best one, so we suggest trying them all.

Photo by: Dan Lundberg via Flickr
Photo by: Dan Lundberg via Flickr

2. Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor -Siem Reap, Cambodia

This colonial style hotel offers an escape from the city and features an authentic looking tropical pool. The saltwater pool here is surrounded by lush tropical gardens and soaring palm trees on one side, enough to make you forget that you are indeed in the middle of the city. There are enough sun beds on the other side for all guests and this tropical oasis manages to never feel crowded. The inviting lounge spills out onto the swimming pool terrace and most of the bedrooms horseshoe around the pool, giving lovely views to all who stay here. Most visitors love to pad around these tranquil grounds, sip a cocktail on the deck or go for a refreshing afternoon swim.

Photo by: Belmond La Residence D'Angkor
Photo by: Belmond La Residence D’Angkor

1. Hacienda Uayamon -Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

This wonderfully unique property is set ideally close to the Mayan site of Edzna, on Mexico’s stunning Yucatan Peninsula. It is hidden away in thick jungle foliage and ancient ruins and was created to retain some of the original charm of the former cattle ranch it was once. The pool is actually situated in a ruined part of the building and was once the main room. It has since been flooded with water and has become one of the most beautiful swimming pools in the world, with its crumbling stone walls and topless pillars. The absence of a roof means that light pours in all day to this pool and more often than not guests can been seen lounging in the provided hammocks. This setting is sure to relax and inspire you as your worries drift away in the clear turquoise waters.

Photo by: Julie Edgley via Flickr
Photo by: Julie Edgley via Flickr

The 15 Best New Hotels on the Planet

Travel + Leisure searched thousands of hotels all over the world in order to find the best game changer hotels that are new for 2015. The hotels were then tested out by staying a night in each and with a combination of elegance, innovation, personality of the owners and more; Travel + Leisure named their top 43 new hotels on the planet. We have gone one step further and explored these hotels picking our 15 favorites! From Israel to London to Botswana, here are our top 15 picks for the best new hotels on the planet:

15. Pikaia Lodge, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Boasted as the most luxurious and sustainable eco-lodge in the Galapagos; the Pikaia Lodge is designed for the environmentally conscious traveler who is looking for adventure in this remote area. Forget being stuck on a yacht, this lodge is land-based and offers land and water based activities through the day in small groups; allowing visitors get as close to nature as possible. With an infinity pool, spacious rooms, amazing restaurants and a spa, guests won’t have to sacrifice any amenities here. Did we mention that the lodge is perched on a small plateau on top of two extinct volcanic craters and offers some of the most spectacular viewpoints in all of the Galapagos?

Photo by: Pikaia Lodge
Photo by: Pikaia Lodge

14. Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge was actually re-built from an existing lodge and offers one of the most architecturally stunning safari camps. It blends seamlessly into its surroundings, the forest canopy of wild palms and fig trees with an abundance of wildlife nearby. 12 Cocoon like suites complete with wood burning fireplaces, private plunge pools and solar-power air conditioning hover on stilts above the floodplain reserve. World-class dining, breathtaking furnishings and an open-air dining room that is absolutely breathtaking set the mood for the ultimate safari adventure.

Photo by: Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge
Photo by: Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge

13. Viña Vik, Millahue, Chile

It looks more like a spaceship that touched down in the lush hills of Chilean wine country than a winery complete with a retreat recently added on the hillside above it. Viña Vik is home to only 22 rooms, each one designed by a different artist, adding to the allure of the place. Activities here are endless from taking a private guided tour through the winery, taking a dip in the stone infinity pool or eating the delicious food at the Pavilion Café.

Photo by: Viña Vik Hotel
Photo by: Viña Vik Hotel

12. The Norman, Tel Aviv, Israel

This boutique hotel blends 1920’s elegance with luxury services and facilities including a rooftop pool, wellness center and first-class dining. The Norman spans across two historic buildings that have been restored to their unique architectural heritage and furnished with a combination of classic and modern furnishings and fixtures. With 30 individually designed guestrooms and 20 one-of-a-kind suites the choice is endless as to where you can lay your head down at night.

Photo by: The Norman
Photo by: The Norman

11. Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard, London

This hotel isn’t just attracting tourists but locals themselves as they come to gawk at the Shangri-La Hotel located on floors 34-52 of the tallest building in Western Europe. Floor to ceiling windows in your room give you a breathtaking view of the vibrant city of London and the River Thames. The infinity pool, the incredible suites, the intimate bars and the amazing dining options are just a slice of the many luxuries offered here.

Photo by: Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London
Photo by: Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London

10. Four Seasons Resort Orlando, FL

It is Disney’s first five-star resort and it manages to incorporate enough trademark Disney traditions such as character breakfasts without sacrificing any of the luxury one would expect from a five-star resort. With a total of 443 rooms, there are options for both families and grownups including huge balconies, pullout sofas and oversized closets; all done in neutral colors to please anyone. Luxury amenities include the 13,000 square foot spa, the championship golf course and the adults-only pool. Count on dining on the roof top restaurant which features incredible views of the nightly fireworks.

Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Orlando

9. Adler Mountain Lodge, Dolomites, Italy

Located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Adler Mountain Lodge is truly a wood-built hideaway at the heart of nature. This lodge promises breathtaking views across the mountain meadows and soaring peaks, as well as an innovative guest experience and superior holiday experience. From the heated outdoor pool to the alpine spa to the sauna with incredible views, this lodge is like no other and creates the perfect base for exploring nature.

Photo by: Carlos Muela
Photo by: ADLER Mountain Lodge

8. Belle Mont Farm, St. Kitts

The passion for sustainable living is at the forefront of Belle Mont Farm hotel, along with making sure luxury amenities are still available to guests. Accommodations have been designed to fit in with nature and feature spectacular views of the ocean and forest. The guesthouses are loaded with amenities including rainwater showers, film-stocked iPad, projector screens and fresh fruit crates that get delivered daily. The personalized attention from the owners and the farm-to-table approach is what really wins guests over here.

Photo by: Belle Mont Farm
Photo by: Belle Mont Farm

7. Maalifushi by Como, Maldives

It’s not over the top luxury that got this hotel on our list, as the Maldives are packed full of that. It’s actually the family-friendly vibe that caught our attention. Maalifushi by COMO offers every choice of accommodation from two-bedroom suites to private pools to direct beach access to private butlers; giving families a wide range of options. Amenities such as a kid-friendly lagoon, kid’s club with outdoor cinema and babysitting services complete the experience. Don’t forget about the spa suites over the water, surfing lessons on nearby legendary breaks and amazing dining options for the grownups.

Photo by: Maalifushi by Como
Photo by: Maalifushi by Como

6. Raffles, Istanbul

This 21-storey hotel houses 181 guest rooms that are elegantly designed with Turkish influences and feature fine details you won’t find elsewhere. Floor to ceiling windows fill the rooms with light, private terraces, spa-like bathrooms and walk-in closets are just a few examples of these. The hotel is decked out with over 200 pieces of contemporary art that create a refined, modern sense of style. Whether you are enjoying the 33,000 square foot spa, dining in one of the seven on-site restaurants or sipping on Turkish coffee in the lounge, this hotel proves to be unforgettable.

Photo by: Raffles Istanbul
Photo by: Raffles Istanbul

5. Hotel Sahrai, Fez, Morocco

Gone is the notion that one must hole up in a budget hotel when visiting the medieval city of Fez with the introduction of this hotel. Loaded with terraces, outdoor bars, dining areas and an infinity pool; Hotel Sahrai embraces the notion of open space and natural light. The 50 guest rooms feature glass walls, soothing colors, exclusive furnishings and elegant details. Delicious food in an elegant setting tops off this hot new hotel of 2015.

Photo by: Hotel Sahrai
Photo by: Hotel Sahrai

4. Vines Resort & Spa, Mendoza, Argentina

Vines Resort is set amongst 1,500 acres of private vineyards and offers 22 private villas ranging from one to two bedrooms units. The huge windows allow for visitors to watch the incredible sunrises and sunsets that take place in the Uco Valley. Outdoor hot tubs, luxury linens, gas fireplaces, rooftop terraces and spa-inspired bathrooms complete the villas. Guests here can choose to dine inside, outside or in front of the open kitchen where they can watch skilled chefs cook with locally sourced ingredients to create five star dishes. Paired with award-winning boutique wines; this is one experience you won’t forget.

Photo by:The Vines Resort & Spa
Photo by:The Vines Resort & Spa

3. 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin is certainly one of the most unique hotels on this list as designers have created a hotel that blends nature with culture in one of the most interesting designs we have seen. Think 10-speed bikes dangling from the hallway ceilings and hammocks lining the third floor lobby. The location cannot be beat and if you feel like watching the apes play in the city zoo all day, why not book a room overlooking it or head to the rooftop bar. Rooms are playful with their polished concrete floors, black-tiled showers and colorful fabrics throughout and this will truly be one unique hotel stay.

Photo by: 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin
Photo by: 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

2. Namiri Plains, Tanzania

The eastern edge of the Serengeti has been off-limits to visitors for over 20 years, as its status as a wildlife refuge took precedence. The game-rich region is full of big cats including the ever elusive cheetah. Namiri Plains was created to cater to the wildlife enthusiast that was seeking a deeper experience, secluded surroundings and excellent wildlife experiences. This camp was created to minimize the impact on the environment and comprises of only eight tents that are perched in the shade of the giant acadias. Daily game drives, sunset picnics and the annual migration of the wildebeest and zebra make this an unforgettable vacation destination.

Photo by: Namiri Plains
Photo by: Namiri Plains

1. The Brando, Tetiaroa, French Polynesia

The Brando is made up of 35 ultra-private villas, each constructed with sustainable local wood and cooled by seawater-powered air conditioning. They face their own secluded private beach complete with visits from sea turtles and exotic birds. If you are looking to escape reality for a week, this is the hottest new hotel to visit this year. Two restaurants, a luxurious spa and wellness center, an organic garden, lily pad pond and two bars make up the rest of the property. Don’t forget about the tennis court, infinity pool and cultural center. Guests can expect to snorkel or dive with the tropical fish, take a sail into the lagoon, kayak above coral gardens, paddle board out to a nearby island or just relax on the breathtaking white sand beaches.

Photo by: The Brando
Photo by: The Brando