10 Emerging Travel Destinations You Need to Visit NOW

Italy. Australia. Thailand. These popular destinations are on most everyone’s travel bucket list, and for good reason. They’re rich with history, vibrant culture and sensational food. And while the language, landscape and customs may be different in each country, they share one thing in common: tourist crowds.

Some people may not mind sharing their vacation with hordes of strangers, but for those who prefer to visit places that are off the typical tourist’s radar, here are 10 incredible locations you should consider traveling to now before the secret’s out and the crowds start rolling in.

10. Nepal

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Since a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook the country in 2015, Nepal’s tourism industry has suffered tremendously. In the two years since, the people have been doing all they can to repair infrastructure and treasured monuments to draw travelers back to the area.

Home to Mount Everest, Nepal is most commonly visited by those who dare to climb the Earth’s tallest mountain. But this South Asian country, which is landlocked between Tibet and India, has plenty to offer for adventurers of all kinds—including trekking, wildlife safaris, rafting, paragliding and bungee jumping, among others. If your preference is to visit urban areas, the country’s capital city, Kathmandu, is overflowing with bustling markets and historic temples to explore.

9. Myanmar

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For many decades, it wasn’t possible to visit Myanmar (formerly Burma) due to the military dictatorship that ruled the country. And even though it’s now welcoming of tourists, Myanmar is often overlooked in favor of more popular neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam. But that will most certainly change in the near future.

Known as the “Golden Land,” Myanmar is home to the historic region of Bagan, a vast landscape dotted with over 2,000 temples and pagodas built between the 9th and 13th centuries. This magnificent landscape can be explored on foot or by bike, but a hot air balloon ride offers the view of a lifetime.

8. Mongolia

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With over 250 sunny days per year, Mongolia is aptly known as the “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky.” It is also one of the least densely populated countries in the world, which makes visiting feel like a truly off-the-beaten-path experience. An adventure lover’s paradise, Mongolia offers pristine landscapes that extend as far as the eye can see, perfect for trekking mountains, horseback riding and searching for dinosaur fossils in the Gobi desert. You can also camp anywhere for free (yes, really).

In fact, half of the country’s population still lives nomadic lifestyles, endlessly traveling and setting up their gers (white felt tents) wherever they stop. But this number is shrinking, as many are abandoning the pastoral lifestyle for work within the cities. So if you wish to experience Mongolia at its most authentic, be sure to get there sooner than later.

7. Canada

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The United States’ northern neighbor turns 150 this year, and to celebrate the country is offering free admission to all of its near 50 national parks. This incentive, along with a favorable US dollar, has drawn international travelers to many of Canada’s most popular areas, including the mountainous coast of British Columbia in the west and the laid-back vibe and wildlife of the Maritimes in the east, a region that consists of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This sudden spotlight on the country’s beauty has skyrocketed it to the top of many people’s bucket lists; so don’t delay your visit if you wish to experience the land as if it were your own private paradise.

6. Montenegro

This small country, which gained independence from Serbia in 2006, has attracted the famous and wealthy for many years. But the rest of the population is only just starting to catch on to the pristine beaches and the historic medieval villages it boasts. The adventurous can explore the dense forests and beautiful waterfalls of Durmitor National Park or raft along the river in the Tara River Canyon. And with over 250 days of sunshine each year, it’s a sailor’s heaven. Needless to say, this paradise likely won’t stay under the radar for much longer!

5. Madagascar

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After breaking off from India 88 million years ago, Madagascar became a secluded island paradise home to countless plant and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Its landscape is diverse, ranging from dense jungle to desert to incredible coastline. Visit Parc National de Ranomafana for its relaxing natural hot springs or head to Camp Bandro at Lac Alaotra for a day of lemur spotting. But such untouched beauty won’t last forever, as some of the landscape is already transforming into the tourist resorts. Visit now to experience the country at its most natural.

4. Serbia

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Western Europe gets all the attention. Consisting of countries such as France, Spain, Switzerland and Portugal, it’s no wonder. But those who’ve already visited such places, or others who simply want to experience a different side of the continent, are now looking to Eastern Europe for their next adventure.

Serbia is just one of the emerging countries in this region. Its capital, Belgrade, boasts not one, but two riverfronts, as it’s located where the Danube and Sava rivers meet. The pedestrian-friendly streets make it easy to take in the elaborate nineteenth-century buildings of the old town, and its nightlife is among the best in Europe. This gem of a city certainly won’t stay hidden for long!

3. Patagonia

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Mountains, abundant wildlife and a sprawling coastline are just a few of reasons drawing people to Patagonia, a region that is shared between Chile and Argentina. You can trek across glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park or travel to Península Valdes, a UNESCO heritage site that is home to Magellanic penguins and a stunning location to go whale watching. You can also drive inland and visit an authentic Estancia (ranch) in Argentina to learn about the country’s history and culture from the locals. Head there soon to enjoy Patagonia’s unspoiled land; this adventure lover’s paradise won’t be kept secret for long!

2. Colombia

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Long associated with drug cartels and corruption, Colombia has transformed from a nation in crisis to a budding new South American travel destination. Urban explorers should travel to Bogota, the country’s capital, which has seen a recent boom in unique hotel and restaurant offerings. Or visit Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, one of the best-preserved colonial cities on the continent.

Or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, trek the six-day hike to the lost city of Ciudad Perdida, located atop the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. Only just discovered in 1976, the city’s construction dates back some 650 before Peru’s famous Machu Picchu.

1. Sri Lanka

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India is a popular travel destination at the moment, but it can be quite challenging to navigate. For a similar experience, tourists are now turning to Sri Lanka, which is just as rich with history, culture and customs, but without the complications. The country is home to vast amounts of wildlife; visit Yala National Park to spot elephants, leopards, sloth bears and buffalo roaming in the wild.

Or see the country’s spectacular landscape by train. Board the Yal Devi Express for an unforgettable journey from Colombo to Jaffna. You can also surf some waves in Arugam Bay, with a beach of golden sand located in the south east of the island. You can truly choose your own adventure in Sri Lanka, but get there soon before others catch on to its abundant beauty!

15 Amazing Hotels Around The World For Under $100

While it is very easy to spend a lot of money when staying at a nice hotel there are some places around the world that have world class service and rooms that easily fit into any budget. With a little searching you can find hotels that offer luxury accommodations, great facilities and locations. Next time you are looking to get away for a weekend getaway, head out on a business trip or even once in a lifetime family trip, you don’t have to settle for a small room in a substandard hotel because you are afraid it might break your budget. Take some of these suggestions for amazing hotels that you can book for under $100 a night.

15. Chatrium Hotel Riverside -Bangkok, Thailand

The Chatrium Hotel Riverside is a multiple award winning hotel located adjacent to the Chao Phraya River, just 30 km from the International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. A Grand Room with a city view is under $80 and comes with a private balcony. At 60 sq. meters the room comes complete with a kitchenette and dining area, coffee and tea making facilities, bathrobe and slippers. The hotel offers a business center that includes everything necessary if you just can’t leave work behind. A 35 meter infinity pool overlooking the river with an outdoor Jacuzzi awaits along with a fully equipped fitness center. Head to the Nemita spa on the ground floor and get a relaxing massage or do pick up some items in the shops. Also on the premises is a Starbucks Coffee Shop and the Saizen Japanese Restaurant. The hotel also has facilities for meetings and weddings.

Photo by: Chatrium Hotel
Photo by: Chatrium Hotel

14. Sri Bungalows -Ubud, Bali

For under $100 you can book a suite at the Sri Bungalows. The bungalows located in Ubud Bali comes with handsomely appointed suites with a private balcony overlooking the rice terraces. The rooms are stylishly appointed and other facilities include two swimming pools, restaurant and full service spa so you can enjoy a Balinese massage. The bungalows cover two floors and are surrounded by gardens and terraces. The hotel is only a short walk to the Ubud Market and the Monkey Forest. For a relaxing stay in a tropical paradise the price is hard to beat.

Photo by: Sri Bungalows
Photo by: Sri Bungalows

13. Radisson Blu Hotel -Cebu, Philippines

Located in the second largest city in the Philippines, Cebu is a popular destination because of the proximity to beautiful beaches and laid back lifestyle. The number one rated hotel in Cebu can also be had for under $100. The Radisson Blu, located 11 kilometers from the International Airport is conveniently located near all the popular tourist sights. With rooms offering goose feather pillows and duvets the Radisson will surely please. The hotel’s restaurant, Feria, offers both à la carte options and a buffet and with five master chefs the food runs the gamut of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean and International cuisines. The hotel has a large tropical pool outside along with a fully equipped state of the art fitness center and spa. For those staying in a business class room or suite the business class lounge is open daily. The hotel also has a 180 seat lobby bar a pool bar and a tea bar serving 21 different teas from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and South Africa.

Photo by: Radisson Blu
Photo by: Radisson Blu

12. Riad Viva -Marrakech, Morocco

Located in the city center, 15 minutes from the airport, the Riad Viva Hotel offers visitors a relaxing stay in beautifully appointed rooms. The hotel offers guests a wide range of amenities including free WiFi, 24 hr. room service and airport transfers. With a combination of Moroccan style and luxurious amenities guests can be assured of a royal stay. The hotel has a pool along with a steam room and restaurant. The friendly staff can also help in arranging tours to the Ourika Valley, a Berber village, the magical city of Essaouira or point you to the best shopping in town. You can also check out the cooking classes offered by the hotel so you can learn how to use all those aromatic spices and flavors to impress your friends when you return home.

Photo by: Venere
Photo by: Venere

11. Hilton Anatole -Dallas, Texas

You don’t have to travel half way around the world to get a good hotel deal. The Hilton Anatole in Dallas offers the business traveler or visitor to the city comfortable rooms with all the amenities. A room with a King Size bed can be had for under $90 and has just about everything you need as a traveler. The hotel has a full business center and conference facilities and also offers an ATM, currency exchange, clothing store, onsite convenience store and concierge serve. Feel like getting a little exercise? Head to the Verandah Club with fully equipped fitness center, 25 meter lap pool, cross training and boxing gym or enjoy racquet ball the jogging track or basketball courts. The V Spa is the perfect place to get a relaxing massage or spa treatment. In addition to room service there are 5 dining establishments at the hotel including SĒR Steak + Spirits serving up tender steaks and fresh seafood on the 27th floor.

Photo by: Hilton Hotels
Photo by: Hilton Hotels

10. Hotel Paseo Del Arte -Madrid, Spain

Located just a 100 meters from the Atoche Train Station, the Hotel Paseo Del Arte is a 4 star hotel in the heart of Madrid. Comfortably appointed rooms are tastefully furnished and offer a panoramic view of the interior garden or the city. Complete with desk, free WiFi, flat screen TV with international channels, and marble bathroom guests are in the perfect spot to explore the city. The hotel has a fitness facility, shops, coffee shop and bar. The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and along with regional and international cuisine. With 260 rooms the hotel is less than 15 km to the airport making it easily accessible. The hotel is located in the area known as the Arts Triangle and within walking distance to several museums, parks, shopping, restaurants and the famous Madrid nightlife.

Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte
Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte

9. Century Plaza Hotel and Spa -Vancouver, B.C.

The Century Plaza Hotel and Spa is a family owned and operated located in the center of downtown Vancouver. The hotel prides itself on providing the best service possible. With a business center, conference facilities and indoor pool, the Century Plaza is the perfect place for business travelers and families visiting the city. Since opening the Absolute Spa at Century Plaza Hotel 12 years ago, the Spa has received over 50 awards and is the favorite of celebrities like Zac Effron, Elle McPherson and Gwyneth Paltrow when in town. With an ozonated swimming pool, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation lounge the Spa is the perfect place to get pampered. The hotel also features the C Prime Italian Steak and Wine Restaurant. Using locally sourced meats, vegetables and seafood Chef Bruce Woods has made the restaurant one of the hottest destinations in Vancouver. A coffee shop, salon and Vancouver’s iconic comedy club The Comedy Mix are also available to guests.

Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel
Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel

8. Sana Hotel -Berlin, Germany

The Sana Hotel is a 4 star Superior Class hotel located on the west side of Berlin. With 203 rooms including suites and apartments the Sana offers a wide choice of accommodations. A double room can be booked for less than $100 and prices go up from there. Facilities include a breakfast room, restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine, two bars, terrace garden, fitness center and massage services. The F8/eight Bar & Lounge seats 50 and guests can relax with fine wines and spirits while listening to live jazz. A smoking bar also exists for those that enjoy a fine cigar. In addition to massage services the wellness area on the 7th floor offers an indoor swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. The Sana Hotel is also centrally located for sightseeing with the Brandenburg Gate less than 5 km. away, as well as the zoo, museums and cultural facilities being nearby.

Photo by: Sana Hotel
Photo by: Sana Hotel

7. The Signature at MGM Grand -Las Vegas, Nevada

Located just off the famed Las Vegas Strip, The Signature at MGM Grand offers an elevated level of personalized service. Luxuriously appointed suites start at just under $100 and have all the amenities you might expect in luxury hotels costing much more. With a private pool complete with personal cabana and in suite spa services to the spacious suites with granite and marble bathrooms and kitchenettes the hotel does everything possible to pamper the guests. The hotel concierge will ensure you get tickets to the best shows and hard to get restaurant reservations and has a gourmet delicatessen on the premises. Whether you are hitting the Las Vegas Strip, spending the day golfing or seeing the sights you can relax and unwind in your private suite at night and get the rock star treatment from a dedicated staff that does everything the ensure you have the ultimate Las Vegas experience.

Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand
Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand

6. Golden Tulip Amsterdam West -Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is known for offering cheap backpacker accommodations with over 180 hostels in the city. For those not wanting budget sleeping arrangements with noisy neighbors there is an alternative. Conveniently located to Schiphol Airport and the city center the Golden Tulip Amsterdam West makes exploring the city easy. With rates under $100 you can have the comfort of a spacious room with heated floors, a rain shower and free internet access. Comfortably appointed rooms have been designed to be soundproof so guests can get a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by the wild Amsterdam nightlife. The buffet restaurant seats 300 and is open for breakfast and dinner and the modern bar is a great place to relax and have a cocktail, cup of coffee or a slice of homemade pie. The tram stop is a mere 50 meters from the hotel for easy commute to the famous sights such as the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum.

Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels
Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels

5. Relais Spa Chessy Residence -Paris, France

Visitors to Paris know hotels and pretty much everything else can be pricey. With a little searching you can find gems such as the Relais Spa Chessy Residence near Disneyland Paris. A premium room with free WiFi, unlimited spa access and shuttle to Disney Land can be scooped up for under $100. The rooms have a small office area and a discreet kitchen with hot plate. Hotel amenities include pool, steam room, sauna, gym and spa treatments. The Franklin Bar makes for a cozy place to relax with friends for a drink while the Brasserie Flo restaurant serves up sophisticated French cuisine. The hotel staff strives to ensure each guest gets the VIP treatment.

Photo by: Realis Spa
Photo by: Realis Spa

4. Chateau Victoria -Victoria, B.C.

Sitting on the location of a former mansion the Chateau Victoria is a boutique hotel offering a touch of opulence to guests. The hotel has a colorful past due to a parrot that inherited the old mansion that previously stood there and some swear they have seen the well-dressed ghost of Victoria Jane, the previous mansion owner, roaming the halls. Whether you see a ghost or not one thing you can be assured of. The hotel goes out of the way to make to feel comfortable and the rooms complete with free WiFi and big comfortable beds await the tired traveler. The hotel’s Vista 18 restaurant offers regional cuisine and has an extensive wine list. The hotel bar, Clive’s Classic Lounge, has been listed as one of the top hotel bars by several publications. The hotel offers in room spa treatments and massages and the hotel has a lap pool, hot tub and fitness center.

Photo by: Trip Advisor
Photo by: Trip Advisor

3. Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba -Tokyo, Japan

While Tokyo has its share of pod hotels, where you get to sleep in what resembles a submarine torpedo tube, there are other options. One such option is the Grand Nikko Tokyo Diaba Hotel, a 5 star resort located just 20 minutes from Haneda International airport on 15 minutes from downtown Tokyo. A superior Double room can be booked for under $100 during the week and the hotel comes with such amenities as an outdoor terraced swimming pool with fantastic views of Tokyo, a wellness salon, acupuncture center and has a medical clinic on the premises. The hotel fitness center is fully equipped and has trainers on staff and the hotel has several shops on site. There are eight restaurants at the resort including sushi, Chinese and Italian and the Ruy Lopez Bar stocks liquor from around the world along with fine cigars.

Photo by: Jalan
Photo by: Jalan

2. Lancaster House -Bogota, Colombia

Lancaster House in Bogota Colombia is a boutique hotel designed in the art deco style. The 4 star hotel has two bars, restaurant, gym and sauna. Gatsby Restaurant serves traditional Colombian and International food while the more relaxed Bistro 106 is a great place to relax and get a lighter meal or dessert. Relax in the piano bar with a game of billiards or a cocktail before heading up to your luxurious room. The Junior Suite comes equipped with a living and dining area, work space and kitchen. The hotel also offers a mobile spa service so guests can book a massage or just relax in the sauna. Located in an upscale neighborhood close to embassies and near the major shopping areas the Lancaster is centrally located for easy access to all the city has to offer.

Photo by: Lancaster House
Photo by: Lancaster House

1. Kaani Village and Spa -Maldives

The Kaani Village and Spa located in the beautiful Maldives offers guests a pampered option to staying at a discounted beach hotel. With a Double Deluxe room overlooking the pool that comes with a breakfast included the hotel makes a perfect base to enjoy the island. The Sampa Spa at the hotel offers tradition Thai massage as well as aroma massages performed by two masseuses at once. The hotel has a pool and restaurant and the hotel staff can arrange activities such as fishing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, snorkeling or an island tour complete with picnic. Rated number 3 out of 40 small boutique hotels by TripAdvisor the Kaani Village and Spa does everything possible to pamper guests and make your stay memorable.

Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa
Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa

6 Outstanding South American Festivals

Of all the continents in the world, it’s apparent South America’s people have the most innate penchant for parties of all kinds, from food fairs to music festivals and religious fetes, each is celebrated with passion, enthusiasm, and a rainbow of costumes. If you’re lucky enough to hit a festival, be sure to book well in advance–the secret has long been out and people literally flock to these fantastic fiestas. Some are complete chaos and others orderly and easygoing; be sure to do some research and know what you’re in for because some South American festivals can be off-the-charts-wild.

6. Semana Santa, Peru

Kicking off two days before Palm Sunday and celebrated for ten dynamic days until Easter Sunday arrives, Semana Santa is one of Peru’s most outstanding festivals. This religious fete is a hotel-filler and one of the best times to stay with a local family (Peru’s tourist office provides homestay options). The Friday kick-off starts with a parade honoring Our Lady of Sorrows (La Virgen de los Delores)–at this point consider standing out of the way: it’s customary to levy “sorrows” upon spectators by slingshot fitted with pebbles. Otherwise the mood is fairly somber yet Semana Santa still paints the streets colorful with religious traditions, vibrant processions, art and music shows, traditional competitions, and abundant, delicious Peruvian fare. Be sure to attend on the Saturday preceding Easter Sunday for an all-out Peruvian bash that plays out until morning, definitely showing the wilder side of locals.

Photo by: Flickr/motoperu
Photo by: Flickr/motoperu

5. Tomorrowland -Sao Paulo, Brazil

Tomorrowland is an extension of an electronic dance music (EDM) festival stemming from Boom, Belgium, also one of the world’s biggest and one that’s been happening annually since 2005. Tomorrowland has stepped into South American terrain–where it’s evident crowds can’t get enough–bringing in some of the best Djs to Sao Paulo in the first week of May over three days solid. Dreamville is the onsite camping accommodations available to festival-goers at Tomorrowland where you can pitch your own tent but there are three other (much easier) camping options including a pre-made tent fit with sleeping bags, small but arty cabanas, and the Dream Lodge reminiscent of a night safari tent complete with access to scores of amenities–the prices aren’t cheap though! This festival is so popular tickets sell out in a matter of minutes and then the only way in is to buy a package deal.

Photo by: Fest 300
Photo by: Fest 300

4. Mendoza Wine Harvest Festival

Since 1936, the Mendoza Wine Harvest Festival (Fiesta National de la Vendimia) has been uniting wine growers, vineyard hands, locals, and thousands of visitors in a spectacular show of love for the Cuyo region and the incredible wines it produces. The festival is a culmination of celebrations happening between December and February throughout Mendoza’s 18 districts. Starting off the first weekend of March, the region’s bumper harvest is celebrated famously with wine, food, music, and innumerable special events.  Concerts, parades, fireworks, and general merrymaking create a definitive carnival-esque atmosphere under blue skies and starry nights. A mammoth finale performance at Mendoza’s Greek Theater features hundreds of dancers and actors, the National Grape Harvest Queen is crowned, and the entire celebration ends with a huge fireworks display. As one of the world’s most renowned harvest festivals, this Mendoza gala is definite must for any traveling oenophile.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

3. Corpus Christi Festival, Ecuador

Ecuador has long been recognized for enduring indigenous traditions including numerous festivals throughout the year. Ecuadorians love just about any reason to celebrate and especially love their customary observances–they really do put on extravagant shows. In the small town of Pujili, the  Corpus Christi Festival happens in the second week of June, welcoming thousands of Ecuadorians for a fete blending the commemoration of both harvest to Incan Sun God Inti and Holy Communion. Food, art, folk and regional dance, and music are intrinsic parts of the festival and culminate following a days-long fiesta in the El Danzante parade where traditional clothing and costumes come together in a kaleidoscopic exhibition. If you do make it to Pujili, head just 15 minutes further to Latacunga National Park for Andean forests alongside striking rivers and lakes and forest habitats within the Amazon, a dramatic area mostly unexplored by tourists.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

2. Tango Festival -Buenos Aires, Argentina

Precision, tempo, elaborate clothing, and most of all passion rise to crescendo during the Tango Festival in Buenos Aires, one of the most famous dance festivals in the world and one for both pros and the keenly interested but inexperienced. The dramatic tango was born in Argentina’s brothels and over the decades, has become one of the most sensual, provocative, and emotional dances of all time favored by all social classes. The Tango Festival starts with a series of recitals and shows called La Festival; there are film screenings and lessons city-wide. Then comes the main event: the Tango Championships. During the celebrations, there’s a must-see event at the massive, alfresco milonga (tango hall) where more than 10,000 dancers (tangueros) careen across Buenos Aires’ cobblestone streets–it’s a beguiling show that can make anyone want to learn the tango if they don’t already know.

Photo by: Fest300
Photo by: Fest300

1. Carnival -Brazil, Columbia & Uruguay

Carnival is celebrated throughout South America in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Columbia but the Brazilians undoubtedly celebrate with the most passion. Prior to the onset of Lent, numerous Argentinian towns celebrate Mardi Gras but no one seems to do it quite as well as it’s done in Rio de Janeiro where a phenomenal party takes place. In Salvador, flatbeds called blocos, fitted with pumping sound systems drive music bands around the city for a full-on, three-day party to end all parties. Second prize for the best Carnival celebration goes to the city of Barranquilla in Columbia where African-style dancing, parades of floats, and ultimately Miss Carnival receives her crown. Riding in at close third is Uruguay, where in the city of Montevideo, they carry Brazil’s zeal for Carnival and celebrate with unbridled enthusiasm–no neighborhood goes untouched by Carnival–with dance parties, countless parades, and extreme Latin revelry.

Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com
Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com

10 Secret Caribbean Hotels

There are hundreds of thousands hotels and resorts across the Caribbean and many of us have a picture in our minds that they all tend to be mega-resorts; but assuming this would be wrong. Besides the sprawling resorts that are littered with hundreds of rooms, pools and families; there happens to be more than a handful of incredible hotels that remain a secret. Some have been around since the 1960’s, others are new, but all of them offer superior landscapes, service and dining. From Jamaica to Antigua; these 10 secret Caribbean hotels are well worth a visit.

10. Turquoise Cay -Great Exuma, Bahamas

It used to be a former fishing lodge but just recently this lodge underwent extensive renovations and opened as a hotel. There are only a total of eight, simple yet elegant rooms each named after the different shade of blue painted on the walls. Furnishings here include round tables with wicker furniture and lobster print cushions, lamp bases filled with sand and daybeds suspended over the beach. Guests should plan on relaxing in the infinity pool that cascades into the bay or getting active with the kayaks and paddleboards available to rent. The Peruvian-Asian restaurant serves up amazing sushi and fresh seafood while music plays lightly on the outdoor deck under the twinkling stars. Guests shouldn’t miss out on visiting Little Exuma, the smaller island of the pair and home to Santana’s Grill Pit; a favorite spot that Johnny Depp often heads to.

Photo by: Turquoise Cay
Photo by: Turquoise Cay

9. The Caves, Jamaica

This all-inclusive, child-free resort offers visitors an incredible experience as soon as they walk through the door. The focus here is the ocean and all 12 wooden thatch cottages are located on the cliff top overlooking the sea. Each cottage is painted its own color and has its own private sundeck completed with hammocks. Leaping into the water from the 20-meter cliff is one of the most popular ways to cool down here, and for those who aren’t daring enough, you can find your peace lounging by the pool. As for the dining, guests here are encouraged to order breakfast whenever they want and the choices are endless, as goes the same for lunch and dinner. The candlelit bar built out of rocks creates the perfect after dinner setting and with a maximum of 36 guests at one time; you won’t have any trouble relaxing here.

8. Secret Bay Resort -Portsmouth, Dominica

This award-winning small hotel is immersed deep in nature on the unspoiled island of Dominica. Made up of just six sustainable luxury villas and bungalows, visitors here can be sure to have the utmost of privacy. Secret Bay is unique in many ways, including its cliff top location that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. This hotel also features two beaches, the magical Cario River, a spectacular sea cave and exquisite dining. Don’t worry about using the full kitchen that is located in your villa as the superior cooking service that is offered will come to you, and use only the best local and organic ingredients. Along with terrific views, gourmet meals, and above average service; guests are treated to such activities as kayaking, snorkeling, cooking classes, yoga and massages. With guests having to be over the age of 12, there is no need to worry about screaming and splashing children running about the tranquil resort.

Photo by: Secret Bay
Photo by: Secret Bay

7. Sugar Reef -Bequia, St Vincent & the Grenadines

65 tropical acres, eight beautiful rooms and one extraordinary private beach awaits visitors at Sugar Reef. Situated on a 65-acre coconut plantation straddling a breathtaking bay with quarter-mile-long beach views, Sugar Reef has managed to create the uniquely Caribbean tradition of living in luxury that is open to views and breezes, along with the occasional lizard and bat. The main dining room boasts enormous driftwood chandeliers where the best lobster roti on the island is served. The eight bedrooms are split between the Beach House and the French House, each featuring high quality linens, driftwood mirrors, four poster beds and French doors. Popular activities here include cycling through the estate, kayaking, snorkeling and gathering around the huge tables at night to play board games. Lush green mountains, sparkling blue ocean and the white sand beach is enough to make anyone want to stay at Sugar Reef forever.

Photo by: Sugar Reef
Photo by: Sugar Reef

6. CasaSandra -Holbox, Mexico

On the tiny island of Holbox, just north of Cancun sits a paradise inside a paradise. CasaSandra is the islands chicest hotel and the owner, a full-time artist has created a natural masterpiece. The hotel was designed with love, conceived with art, music and coziness in mind. With 18 rooms plus 1 luxury villa, personalized service and the absence of TV’s, telephones and radios; this resort is truly for those looking to bring tranquility into their lives. Known as having one of the best places to eat on the island, guests certainly won’t go hungry when they are staying here. Breakfast is served in the open air seating while dinner is taken in the elegant dining room complete with beautiful music and art. The islands’ claim to fame is the sheer number of whale sharks that congregate here from June to September and guests of the hotel should be sure to take some time out to swim with these majestic creatures.

Photo by: CasaSandra
Photo by: CasaSandra

5. The Dunmore -Harbour Island, Bahamas

The most famous beach on Harbour Island is three miles long, one mile wide and in certain lights the grains beneath your feet glow a soft pink color; hence the name Pink Beach. The Dunmore happens to be located smack dab in the middle of the beach and has been around since the 1960’s. In recent years the hotel was taken over for two former guests and has since gone under renovations, making this hotel even better than it was before. The 14 beachfront and garden cottages are decked out in teak furniture, graphic patterned cushions and rattan blinds. Guests can often been seen lounging by the pool or beneath turquoise umbrellas on the palm-fringed beach. The restaurant at the Dunmore produces some of the best food on the island, including snapper sandwiches, fish tacos and fresh lobster.

Photo by: The Dunmore
Photo by: The Dunmore

4. Hotel Deep Blue -Providencia, Colombia

Located on the beautiful Colombian island of Providencia lies a luxurious 12-room resort that is well worth the effort to get there.  The rooms are elegantly furnished with king size beds, private balconies and beautiful furnishings; all with an amazing view out to the sea. The restaurant is one of the most stunning features of this property as it is built right over the water and diners will enjoy the sounds of the waves lapping against the deck and indulging in mouth watering international cuisine. Hotel Deep Blue is part of a biosphere reserve giving way to a variety of animals, near-deserted beaches and a traditional Creole culture. Enjoy the private boat, snorkeling in the clear waters or trekking through the verdant jungle at this amazing hidden gem in the Caribbean.

Photo by: Hotel Deep Blue
Photo by: Hotel Deep Blue

3. Inn at English Harbour, Antigua

It may have opened in the 1960’s but this hotel has managed to stay under the radar, blanketed by thick palm forests complete with its own crescent of sand. Expect to see bright red flowers, colorful birds and painted clapboard buildings among the property. Currently there are 28 rooms which include beautiful four-poster beds, mahogany washstands and breathtaking water views. There are two restaurants on –site, one located down at the beach and another atop a hill. Expect a mix of dining options and be sure to try the lamb and mint sauce that is a favorite of guests. A small spa, sparkling pool, boutique full of gorgeous handmade dresses and tennis courts rounds out this intimate property.

Photo by: The Inn at English Harbour
Photo by: The Inn at English Harbour

2. Kamalame Cay, Bahamas

It is only a 15 minute plane ride from the glitz and crowds of Nassau but visitors will feel a world away when they get to this secluded island with its white sands and turquoise waters. Here is where Kamalame Cay lives; a collection of houses sprinkled along the shores among the thousands of coconut palms. This resort features such awesome amenities as tennis courts, a spa pavilion over the water, beachfront Tiki bar and the Great House dining room. Visitors are treated to luxury linens, nightly bonfires, incredible antique furnishings and some seriously good food. Plan on dining on fresh crab dim sum, fresh caprese salads and fresh bread baked from the on-site bakery. Plenty of celebrities grace the likes of this hotel around the holidays and we wish you the best of luck trying to get a reservation here.

Photo by: Kamalame Cay, Bahamas
Photo by: Kamalame Cay, Bahamas

1. Golden Rock Inn, Nevis

What was once a 19th century sugar estate, complete with an array of stone buildings and rampant forest is now a breathtaking property that features incredible flora and fauna, along with eleven cottages. The old counting house was restored and transformed into the foliage-framed reception and the dining areas and outdoor terraces look onto serene reflection pools. Bamboo trees, palms and orchids are home to colorful hummingbirds and dragonflies throughout the property. Each cottage is designed to be different, each featuring unique amenities and the utmost privacy. Lively Caribbean cuisine is served using the freshest of ingredients and patrons can choose to sit on one of the decks overlooking the sea or within the intimate garden settings. Visitors here won’t find fully-stocked minibars or TV’s in their cottages; instead they will find beautiful surroundings that evoke the feelings of tranquility and peace.

Photo by: Raymond Jungles
Photo by: Raymond Jungles

UNESCO’s Top 9 Musical Cities In The World

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is well known for its designations of World Heritage Sites. For the music and travel lovers it also has a Cities of Music list that is completely fascinating and full of surprises. Fame and size are not on the list of criteria, hence New York and Berlin, two great musical centers who didn’t make the cut. The list rather, focuses on cities with a distinguished musical history endemic to local, national and world culture which have music in the DNA. The qualifying cities also make music an important sector of the economy in terms of concerts, technology and tourism. They also share a serious, comprehensive musical educational component and actively promote their specialties to ensure their music thrives going forward and remains an important part of the culture and economy. For the traveler, these are meccas of live music, most of which have stunning venues from the medieval to the postmodern. It is a thought-provoking list without an obvious name. By the end of it, you might find yourself looking at flights to places you may never have heard of or even just imagining the scenes and settings is time well wasted.

9. Seville, Spain

What better place to start than the city that is the setting of the two greatest operas of all time, Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. These are the stuff of musical legends, but the heart and soul of musical culture and a touchstone of the Spanish identity is flamenco and it bears musical influences from all the cultures that have been part of the region’s history. For example, Spanish folk music, Arabic Byzantine and Christian and Jewish religious music. Seville’s most famous and hugely popular music festival, the Bienal de Flamenco, is world renowned. The greatest flamenco interpreters stage traditional and original works in the sublime beauty of the city’s architectural masterpieces making a feast for all the senses; Real Alcazar the 9th century palace. And the ancient Roman ruins, like watching great works of art in great works of art, but the most critically acclaimed takes place in the city’s nightclub district called Tablao El Arenal with award-winning artists performing a wide variety of flamenco’s different palos or styles.

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

8. Mannheim, Germany

Mannheim is a dynamic multicultural center of creativity. The aging rock group Mannheim Steam roller is American, but their name derives from one of many musical innovations of the Mannheim school of Composers of the 18th century. The Mannheim Roller is a kind of crescendo development by the large orchestra at the court of Charles III Philip. Mannheim influences can be found in the works of Beethoven and Mozart. The musical pedigree here runs deep. UNESCO notes the city has been “a long-standing leader and innovator, with an extraordinary infrastructure for music”. It is a deliberate policy initiative that sees music having economic benefits not just within its own business, but for tourism and technology sectors. However, don’t think it’s all about classical music. Mannheim is still widely regarded as one of Germany’s musical centers. The Mannheim Pop Academy offers a Bachelor’s Degree in pop music while the Time Warp festival has the biggest names in techno music.

Photo by: Germany Travel
Photo by: Germany Travel

7. Hannover, Germany

It is a city of festivals and cabaret. The heavy metal band Scorpion, one of Europe’s most famous is from Hannover. The people of Hannover say there at the center of the Land of Music and it’s not a far-fetched claim. The hugely influential Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media attracts gifted students from around the world who on their own perform 500 public concerts a year. The faculty includes Departments of Chamber Music, Contemporary Music, Ancient Music, Jazz|Rock|Pop and Musicology. They teach every orchestral instruments except, for some reason, the harp. MUSIC is an institution of graduate study for research and development in emerging musical technologies. Also, Hannover is where the first music cassette was produced, first CD was pressed and the first vinyl was invented.

Hannover, Germany

6. Hamamatsu, Japan

Hamamatsu is a city of less than a million people and is located about 100 miles south of Tokyo along the Pacific coast. The makers of some of the world’s finest musical instruments, from grand pianos to synthesizers were founded here. Music is a huge part of the city’s cultural and business community – Roland, Yamaha and Kawai still have their corporate headquarters in Hamamatsu. In fact no other place on earth may be this musical. The multiple stage Concert Hall is opulent and state of the art. There are 10 music festivals that occur here each year, two of the biggest are the internationally sanctioned Hamamatsu International Piano Competition and the Shizuoka International Opera Competition, both attracting major talent worldwide. The Hamamatsu Academy of Music and Shizuoka University of Art and Culture train students in everything from playing instruments to concert hall management. The Museum of Musical Instruments has an amazing collection from different eras and cultures. Part of its mandate is “fostering cross-cultural understanding and cultural diversity through music”.  As a last tribute to its musical pedigree, it is likely the only Asian city with a statue of a Polish composer, but it’s a copy of the famous art Nouveau depiction of Frederic Chopin in Warsaw, the sister city of Hamamatsu.

Photo by: Shizuoka Tourism
Photo by: Shizuoka Tourism

5. Ghent, Belgium

Most of Ghent’s North American reputation is based on it being the city in which England and the United States concluded the treaty that ended the War of 1812. It’s a city full of culture and art events offering a unique combination of a celebrated past and a lively present. Now it is an educational and artistic center, especially in the musical realm. There are two graduate schools that teach opera and musicianship. Ghent also has elegant avenues and canals and is called the City of Festivals (although come to think of it, so is Montreal). But Ghent’s go back at least to 1843 when the Gentse Feesten (the “Festivities of Ghent”) began. The whole city becomes a series of concert stages for all kinds of music and entertainment. Each year you can find some of the world’s biggest jazz names here, as well as upcoming acts that are both Belgian and international. Last year 30,000 people visited as Ghent becomes a music-lover’s Mecca. Hundreds of performers provide a varied mixture of classical, jazz and world music. For the Festival of Flanders “The streets alongside Ghent’s waterways overflow with music, animation, art and spectacle”. The Jazz Festival attracts the biggest name performers. Even the Film Festival is about music in film. It’s not just the variety it’s also the venues, along the city’s canals some of which date back to medieval days. Plus Belgians really do make the best fries in the world.

Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock.com
Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock.com

4. Glasgow, Scotland

Of course Glasgow would be home to the World Pipe (as in bagpipe) Band competition and the highly coveted winner’s trophy. But Glasgow is far more than that – it is an Old World city with a rich history filled with creative arts. Music is one of its most notable. For almost a century, St. Andrew’s Hall was one of the most celebrated musical venues in Europe. It was burned to the ground in 1962 by a careless smoker at a boxing match, but its reputation for musical excellence sustains to this day. With UNESCO as partner, Scottish musical enthusiasts have written a book, Dear Green Sounds that tells the musical history of Glasgow through its historic venues as a walking tour. From the classical offerings at St. Andrew, to perhaps less refined though no less memorable concerts from Frank Sinatra to Freddie Mercury. It is one of those places in which music is ingrained. Classical fans still lament the loss of St. Andrew’s, but it has kept up with time and fashion.

Glasgow at Night

3. Brazzaville, Congo

In Africa it seems like music is not just for listening, it’s a cause for celebration. It’s an escape perhaps from the poverty in which too many of them live. The capital of Congo was there at the birth of soukous (from the French verb to shake) or Congolese rumba, a genre of mesmerizing high-speed dance and music that is an African cultural bedrock, ubiquitous across the continent and popular around the world. Music in Brazzaville is an aspect of their culture to conserve, teach and promote. It’s home to the African Music Council and the 2015 Pan-African Music Festival whose theme in 2015 was “dynamics of music in the diversity of cultural expressions”. Other major events include the FEUX DE BRAZZA (Festival of Lights), which is a blast as you would expect any African music event would be, especially amidst the charm of Brazzaville. But it has its serious side as well…its mission statement reads, in part, the safeguarding of African cultural traditions will ensure that through this festival, future generations will be the link that will perpetuate that culture”.

Photo by: Congo-Site/Portail National Du Congo
Photo by: Congo-Site/Portail National Du Congo

2. Bologna, Italy

On its opera alone, Italy is world musical superpower, but in term musical centers, fans usually think of Milan’s legendary opera house, La Scala, or perhaps the Venice of Antonio Vivaldi. UNESCO has chosen the ancient educational and culinary center of Bologna for its list, citing its “widespread promotion of the music sector” La Dota (The Learned) home to the oldest university in the world, dating from 1088. The University of Bologna was the first in the country to offer degrees music and performing arts. Not to mention the music festivals! It seems the only festival missing from this city is a Congolese rumba festival. Classical, chamber, devotional, opera, ballet, blues jazz, even Jewish jazz. The target audiences start at the age of one. For music lovers there is the additional attraction of events set in the glorious ancient city. Bologna has four major orchestras including one run by Claudio Abbado, one of the greatest conductors of his generation. But it’s not just the artistic history and culture, it’s the educational and community outreach that UNESCO favors with Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart works as music therapists in the health and social services field. Also, dress rehearsals are open free of charge to dozens of schools and cultural associations.

Bologna, Italy

1. Bogotá, Colombia

Columbia is undergoing a remarkable transition socially, economically and architecturally as it is a creative city renowned for its rich music scene. The traditional and emerging forms of music are playing an intrinsic part of the change. The country holds 60 festivals every year, the biggest of which is “Festivales Al Parque” an eclectic display of everything from jazz, opera, hip hop and salsa that over half a million people flock to see. In addition to hosting the “Festivales Al Parque”, Bogota has 500 live music venues where festivals occur annually. UNESCO says the city is an important center for the performance and cultivation of the following music forms: salsa, fusion, rock, opera, classic, chamber, electronic, pop, tropical, ranchera, hip hop, experimental, bolero, gospel and Colombia’s own rich musical traditions can be heard. It has taken on the task as a regional cultural center to promote artists across Latin America and the Caribbean. Bogota is at the edge of the evolving public policy of using music as a cultural touchstone and lucrative engine of economic growth. The Bogota Music Market, created in 2012, has also become a notable platform for local and regional music agents. Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce is developing a Music Cluster in order to strengthen the city’s dynamic music sector.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

10 Must-See Churches Around the World

While churches are regarded primarily as places of worship, they have also been long treated throughout history as the centers of cultural and social activity within a community.  This especially rings true of the hundreds of centuries-old parishes, cathedrals and basilicas  scattered around the world that today stand testament to not only the religious commitment of worshipers, but also to the social and artistic progression of our civilization.  Ranging from medieval Gothic Cathedrals to rare Expressionist Parishes, and whether with religious or artistic inclination, here are 10 churches worth checking out (and gawking over!) on your next international adventure.

10. St. Augustine Church, Philippines

This active parish was built of coral stone and bricks in 1717 and can be found in Paoay, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. Commonly known as Paoay Church, the building is also an example of “Earthquake Baroque,” which, exactly as it sounds, is an architectural term coined to describe the modified Baroque-style rebuilding in places that experienced destructive earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries. The most noticeable characteristic of this style is the use of large buttresses on the back and sides of the building (which can be seen at Paoay Church at about 5.5 ft thick) to guard against future earthquake destruction. Also making this site unique is the adjacent coral bell tower, built in 1793 and rising 3-storeys above ground level, used historically as an observation post in several conflicts.

St. Augustine Church, Philippines

9. Salzburg Cathedral, Austria

The site of this Roman Catholic Cathedral in Salzburg, Austria has endured centuries of fires, reconstructions and consecrations (774, 1628 and 1959) with the current building displaying a stunning example of early Baroque architecture designed by Santino Solari. The majestic exterior is quite a sight to behold as it rises above the Old Town cityscape, but it is the interior that is truly awe-inspiring, with the sepia-and white walls adorned by murals, a 4,000-pipe main organ and cathedral portals made my Scheider-Manzell, Mataré and Manzu. Also to be found here are Mozart’s baptismal font, and an exhibition of the excavation of the old, Romanesque cathedral.

Salzburg Cathedral, Austria

8. Bedkhem Church, Iran

Also known as Bethlehem Church and Beyt Lahm Church, this Armenian Apostolic Church was built in 1627 in the Isfahani architectural style (traditional Persian-Iranian). Located in the Julfa quarter of Ishafan, Iran, it was built by Armenian merchant Khaje Petros, to whom an inscription is now found on the south portal of the structure. Though famous for its gilded domes and historic architecture, it is the 72 paintings found within that account for the exquisite beauty of the church, depicting the life of Christ in two rows of masterpieces by notable Armenian artists.

Bethlehem Church, Iran

7. Kizhi Pogost, Russia

Located on a narrow island strip on Lake Onega, Kizhi Pogost, known alternatively as the Church of Transfiguration, is a 37 meter tall structure made entirely of wood, using scribe-fitted horizontal logs joined with interlocking corners (no nails!). The alter was laid in 1714, after the previous church here was struck by lightning, with the updated design providing more efficient ventilation and contributing to its preservation till this day. There is also an aura of legend around the site, with rumor stating that the head builder used only one axe for the entire project, and upon completion chucked it into the lake, exclaiming, “there was not and will not be another one to match it.”

Ilona5555 / Shutterstock.com
Ilona5555 / Shutterstock.com

6. Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark

This amazing example of Expressionist architecture created by chief architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint and completed by his son, Kaare Klint in 1940 is a Lutheran Church built to commemorate the Danish priest, poet and reformer N.F.S. Grundtvig. Located in the Bispebjerg district in Copenhagen, the most notable exterior feature is the west façade, standing 49 meters tall and resembling the exterior of a church organ. Also quite famous is the interior, which with high, vaulted ceilings and simplistic décor, evokes an atmosphere of tranquility despite the size of the space and the imposing design of the outer façade.

Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark

5. St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary

As Budapest’s largest church, St. Stephen’s Basilica can hold up to 8,500 people simultaneously, and provides a panoramic view of the city from the Cupola. A prime example of Neoclassical architecture, the building took over 5 decades to complete, (due primarily to political conflict and structural issues) and changed builders several times before being completed in 1906 by Jozsef Krauser. The ornate interior is truly a site to behold with stained glass windows designed by Miksa Roth and a considerable amount of frescoes, statues and mosaics throughout.  Also to be seen here is the “most precious treasure of Hungary,” the mummified right fist of King Stephen, for whom the Basilica is named.

St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary

4. Sagrada Familia, Spain

This “Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family” occupying a 12,800 square meter plot of land in the center of Barcelona remains incomplete till this day. Initial construction began on St. Joseph’s day (March 19) in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano who later resigned due to disagreements and passed the project to Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s vision for the Temple, besides being a place of worship was to “artistically represent the truths of religion and the Glorification of God and His Saints” a concept clearly explored when he abandoned the previously drafted Neo-Gothic design in favor of a more “monumental” design of his own innovation. We see it today in the symbolism of the structure, with each of the 18 towers specifically representing Christ, the Gospels, the Virgin Mary and the 12 Apostles, and the verticality of the structure itself representing elevation towards God.

Sagrada Familia, Spain
Byelikova Oksana / Shutterstock.com

3. Milan Cathedral, Italy

This spectacular architectural feat standing 108.5 meters tall took over 500 years to complete, and was the life work of many architects, master builders and financial backers. Originally commissioned by bishop Antonio da Saluzzo in 1385 and funded by 1st Duke of Milan, Glan Galeazzo Visconti, who had visions of creating the largest church in the world (he wasn’t far off, it is currently the 2nd largest Gothic cathedral in the world), the cathedral was consecrated in 1418 when the nave was undergoing just the beginnings of construction. Today, after several restorations and final additions, the structure is amazingly uniform in its Gothic design, with nave columns reaching 24.5 meters in height and the some 135 spires linked with flying buttresses. The Cathedral is adorned with about 3,400 statues, progressing in style from Gothic to Art Deco, and public access is available to the rooftop providing unparalleled views of the surrounding city.

Milan Cathedral, Italy

2. Westminster Abbey, England

While this is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most famous historical attractions, it is also one of the world’s best examples of Medieval Gothic architecture, albeit with an English twist. This is most evident in the intricacies of the northern façade (tourist entrance) and in the extremely expansive vaulted ceilings of the interior (the highest Gothic vault in England, at 102 ft) made to look even taller by narrow single aisles.  Today, the Abbey is neither a Cathedral nor a parish church (as it had been throughout history) but rather a “Royal Peculiar” subject only to the Sovereign, and is the site of every British coronation since 1066 as well as the final resting place of a number of notable historical figures.

Westminster Abbey, England

1. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

Rising 100 meters above the bottom of the Guaitara River Canyon, near Nariño, Ipiales in Colombia, the Gothic revival basilica—which is built in-to the rocky cliff on one side, and connects via bridge to the opposite side—looks more like the inspiration for a Disney castle than a Sanctuary. The present day structure was built from 1916-1949, with a history dating back to 1754 when, during a storm, Maria Muences’ deaf-mute daughter exclaimed that she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary over the “laja” (name for flat sedimentary rock similar to shale) after-which she was cured of her afflictions. The first shrine to the “Lady of Las Lajas” was built at this site in the 18th Century and has since been upgraded to what we see today. The sanctuary was authorized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1951 and declared a minor basilica 3 years later.

Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

THE Top 20 Places to Be in 2015

Early in 2015, the venerable New York Times published its list of ’52  Places To Go To This Year’. Its reasoning rested on the observation that “Untrammeled oases beckon, once-avoided destinations become must-sees and familiar cities offer new reasons to visit.” Its philosophy seems to be that it’s time to stop fighting our way into the overcrowded, stratospherically expensive established sites. Most of the list that follows features three qualities: great food, novelty and at least one United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site defined as “places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity”. There are 1007 UNESCO sites in all as of this writing and the places below contain almost 200 of them. Provence and Tuscany? How about Georgia with terrific wine, breathtaking scenery and enough history for a bus full of PhDs. Tired of the prices and lineups in Greece? There’s this little fishing village on the Turkish Riviera. It’s a great idea. Let’s change it up a bit here people. Do something original.  How about a feast of muskox on a sub-Arctic speck of rock in the North Atlantic? Beyond that there are some tourism plain Janes who have suddenly let down their hair and are proving to be quite fetching. And there’s a promising crop of the shunned or unavailable who are opening up their unseen treasures. The war in Sri Lanka, with its seven World Heritage Sites is over. The pariah state of Zimbabwe with its incredible wildlife, savannahs, is behaving. So, in the spirit of the Times, here are the best of the best. Twenty totally fresh ways to seriously renovate your travel itinerary:

20. Kas, Turkey

Less expensive than Greece, far less overrun than other places in the region, Kas is a happening place. This little fishing village on the Turkish Riviera, the Turquoise Coast is one of those ever-dwindling number of getaways where you can still get away. It has all the active seaside things you’d want: kayaking, trekking and serious diving (with wrecks and underwater sculpture). One Times reader called it “a must for nature lovers”. To firm up both the mind and the thighs, there are hikes along the Lycian Way to see tombs from the pre-Roman Empire. The elaborate ones carved into the mountainsides are extremely impressive and the best ones are a 45 minute drive away in Xanthos. Pronounced “Cash”, it won’t take a lot of yours to enjoy quality down time without the partying hordes.

Kas, Turkey

19. Baku, Azerbaijan

Begin with the walled city dating from the 12th century. UNESCO calls the 15th century Shuirvinshaj’s palace “one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture which reflects evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence”. Looming over the ancient streets is the gaudy modernity of the Flames Towers, a pair of 600 foot buildings, flame shaped, with thousands of LED lights whose ‘flames’ can be seen for miles. It works as an elegant combination of very old and very new as oil money brings the Mercedes, caviar crowd onto the medieval streets.

Ramil Aliyev / Shutterstock.com
Ramil Aliyev / Shutterstock.com

18. Cáceres, Spain

A phenomenal place that has everything but a beach. History, art, architecture, excellent wine and renowned kitchens. In fact, it is designated as Spain’s Gastronomic Capital for 2015 so there’s a huge buzz about this city of 100,000 near the Portuguese border. The buzz began with the opening of Atrio a striking futuristic hotel-restaurant in the prestigious Relais and Chateau chain with a pair of coveted Michelin Stars. It’s located in the ancient walled city, on UNESCO’s list.  The city was captured by the Moors in the 8th century and not retaken by Christians until 1229. Its towers reflect its Roman, Muslim, Visigoth and Christian rulers. Gothic and Renaissance building abound. Much of the city’s once prominent Jewish quarter survives. The UNESCO citation calls it “Outstanding universal value”. A fairy tale place occupied through history by military powers, though the occupying force today consists of brilliant, creative chefs.

Cáceres, Spain

17. Chengdu, China

Chengdu eminently qualifies for the off the beaten track status, being near Tibet, 1200 miles inland from the coastal colossus of Shanghai. But there are direct international flights sprouting and it’s the panda capital of the world. The Giant Panda Research Base houses about 200 of the much loved bears. It is also the capital of Sichuan cuisine, luring foodies with spicy palates just to eat the tongue tingling cuisine. There is a Chinese saying “the best cuisine is from China, while the richest flavor is from Chengdu”. There are over 60,000 restaurants and another 62,000 caterers. The city isn’t much to look at but it is one of only eight cities in the world with a UNESCO City of Gastronomy Designation.

Chengdu, China

16. Danang, Vietnam

Danang has long been known as a good place to stop over on the way to somewhere else, most notably, the UNESCO heritage sites nearby. The old Imperial city of Hue and the ancient town of Hoi An are short trips away. But a modern skyline is taking shape and the city between the Marble Mountains and the gorgeous beaches on the South China Sea is becoming worthy of a stay on its own. China Beach was a favorite place of GI’s for R&R during the Vietnam War. Beachside luxury resorts are going up, and keep in mind, the exchange rate for the Vietnamese Dong is well over 20,000 to the US$ and Euro making those hotels and signature banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches pretty affordable.

Lauren Ava / Shutterstock.com
Lauren Ava / Shutterstock.com

15. Alentejo, Portugal

It’s something that makes North Americans shake their heads. The beaches of Alantejo (the best in Europe says The Guardian) are relatively unknown because they are remote, a whole two hours from Lisbon. Two hours?  That’s a daily commute in the New World. But all the better for non-Europeans who have no qualms about spending chunks of their lives in cars. Beaches aside there are Roman ruins to be found. Visigoth ruins in fact. Evora is another UNESCO site, an impeccably preserved medieval town. The winemakers produce delicious rich, fruity reds yet Alantejo remains one of the poorest regions of Europe. The crash of the ocean waves, the melodies of the Fado singer in the square, the sense of looking back through time at a disappearing way of life make it a most compelling destination. But hurry, because Michelin stars and oenophile hotels are sprouting already.

Alentejo, Portugal

14. Shikoku, Japan

It’s called the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Eighty eight temples along a 750-mile trail begun in 815 A.D. to honor the much revered monk Kobo Daishi. It is considered a path to spiritual enlightenment. Modern pilgrims can forego the quest for perfection and choose from the many places on Japan’s smallest island that demand a visit. Pick and choose which of the many sites that demand a visit. Matsuyama is the largest city with an imposing castle, ancient hot springs and seven sacred temples. Up in the inland mountains is the Iya Valley; lush, isolated with heart-stopping gorges and vine bridges for the brave. The many hot springs will soothe your mortal coil after a day of incredible hiking or white water rafting.

Matsuyama Japan

13. Papua New Guinea

It’s a good news, bad news kind of story. One of the most remote, exotic places in the world is opening up to tourism. The not so good part is monster cruise ships are just beginning their intrusion on a pristine island country. The beaten track is barely visible from PNG. There won’t be much chilling by the hotel pool here. Because there aren’t a lot of hotel pools, as tourism is still a fledgling industry. There’s a whole new rich ecosystem here wit tribal cultures to experience and timeless beauty in jungles almost lost to time. The 60 mile long Kokoda Track takes hardy trekkers through native villages. Madang in the north is getting famous for diving and PNG as a whole is a birders paradise. Do keep in mind that the capital, Port Moresby has often been rated among the Least Livable Cities in the world. Nobody’s perfect.

Papua New Guinea

12. Greenland

There are still the breathtaking fjords to be cruised, whales to be watched and sunning at midnight to be done. Chalk one up for climate change, Greenland is getting greener (we joke). The amazing UNESCO Heritage Site the enormous Ilulissat Icefjord is at its noisiest and most active during summer sunshine when icebergs the size of mountains heave and crack. It’s a memorable day trip from Ilulissat, the third largest city and there are boat trips out into Disko Bay to get up close and icicle with the massive bergs. As with other northern countries, there’s a movement to modernize traditional cooking, focusing on local ingredients and freshness. Seafood to die for and game, especially muskox are favorites. The Greenland website reassures diners about the taste of muskox “The taste of muskox surpasses that of domestic livestock and, it melts in your mouth bursting with flavor”. Get more acquainted with native culture at the Qasigiannguit Museum with exhibits from the Stone Age to today.

Greenland Hot Springs

11. Georgia

The Georgian word for wine is ‘ghvino’, claimed to be the origin to the English ‘wine’, Italian ‘vino’. They have been making wine here for 7000 years and they are pulling the cork on what the Times calls the next great wine destination. The pleasant capital Tbilisi has a wine bar on just about every corner and there are wine tours of Kakheti, the main producing region. Surprisingly rich in natural beauty, situated between Russia and Turkey, many empires have left their mark on it. There are fabulous old churches, Black Sea resorts and alpine beauty. But it’s the vino attracting the attention now. The Georgian description of a good wine is one that could make a pheasant cry. So an American who came to visit, stayed, and started a vineyard whose wines bear the name “Pheasant’s Tears.”

Kakheti Georgia

10. Sri Lanka

A long deadly civil war made this an island that people only wanted desperately to get out of. Now, a tourism industry is being built where there were battlefields not long ago. The peace has allowed the small island nation to show off its considerable assets. Beaches that go on forever. Eight World Heritage sights. Cuisine to please the pickiest foodie. Sri Lanka is a world tea superpower. Plantations and tea museums are popular. There are safari camps here too, especially in the lush Sinharaja rain forest. Find a treetop yoga studio or luxury spa. At Dam bulla, temples have been carved out of sheer rock and filled with stunning centuries-old Buddhist artworks and artifacts. And last but certainly by no means least, the perfection of the Maldives, a thousand or so islands off the southern coast in the Indian Ocean. It is on the short list for best beach in the world. And if it’s not it, it sure is close.

Sinharaja (Sri Lanka)

9. Oman

­Thoughts of rugged fjords bring forth images of icy Scandinavian inlets with bone chilling cold and sheer granite cliffs. Well, welcome to the Norway of Arabia where the heat can melt your bridgework. Here in the isolated Musandam Peninsula the fjords are called khors. The scene is so other-worldly the BBC compared it to “the shores of a Martian Sea.” Adding to the spice is its location on the Strait of Hormuz, one of the top three places where WW3 is likely to start. Nearby are little-known but spectacular coral reefs making for great diving. Oman is the last part of the Arab world that hasn’t been paved and skyscraperred with oil money. The capital Muscat is a lovely low-key feast of Muslim architecture, old Portuguese forts and bazaars. Its geography ranges from incredible mountainscapes to ancient desert to pristine beaches, but the cranes are becoming more common on the skyline and names like Radisson, Kempinski, Four Seasons and Fairmont are now setting up shop.

Muscat, Oman

8. The North Coast of Peru

A number of places on the list are familiar destinations opening up­ new alternative tourist attractions. The medieval Incan capital of Cusco and the mysterious, celestial Macchu Picchu need no promotion and may even have too many visitors for their own good. The North Coast is remote, as in 22 hours from Cusco. Its Macchu Picchu rival is the fort at Kuélap, a stone city at 10,000 feet. Built by the Chachapoyas, or ‘People of the Clouds’ around the first Millennium, its sophisticated design required more stone to build than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Eco-friendly hotels and sites abound. The Andean spectacled bear is nearly extinct, but can be found in numbers at the Chipparri Reserve. Surfers will like the waves and vibes in the village of Mancora. For whale watchers and serious fishing types, there is Cabo Blanco, once a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. It’s like a whole new world in Peru’s North Coast, still unspoiled relatively undeveloped and still inexpensive.

Kuélap Peru

7. Tanzania

Home of the timeless, magical Serengeti with its breathtaking scenes and staggering annual migration of more than two million mammals, wildebeests, gazelles and zebras. The Times says “the real new treasure here is unprecedented access to sparsely trafficked regions.” The Selous Game Reserve in the south is home to large populations of elephants and leopards. The landscape in the relatively unknown Arangire National Park unique in the region and is home to climbing lions and giraffe. Trek as far up Africa’s highest mountain in Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park, and when you done following the herds and conquering mountain tops, Zanzibar awaits with its rich history, wonderful beaches and newly upgraded creature comforts.

Moshi, Tanzania Serengeti National Park

6. Zimbabwe

Long run by one of the world’s most despicable despots, Zimbabwe is slowly emerging from pariah status with political stability unseen in years. With the currency next to worthless, a window of tremendous opportunity has opened on a country whose natural beauty cannot be overstated. Infrastructure and travel companies are making visiting easier than ever. There are five UNESCO Sites including the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, said to be the home of the Queen of Sheba. There is the legendary Mosi-oa-Tunya or Victoria Falls the largest curtain waterfall on earth. Stability looks good on the capital Harare, one of the nicest on the sub content, but it’s still the big game safaris that are the biggest draw on open savannahs or in numerous National Parks. It’s truly the stuff that dreams are made of.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

5. Medellin, Colombia

Urban renewal with innovative architecture and design. Not long ago the name Medellin was synonymous with drug lords and corruption. It is now becoming known for one of the most ambitious urban transformations in the world. The renewal is epitomized by the futuristic Metrocables, cable cars that unlocked the impoverished people in the surrounding hills from poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods integrating them with the urban renewal below. Similarly, another slum was transformed by the stunning Avant Garde architecture of the Biblioteca Espana. Revel in the night life with the beautiful people at the Parque Llera and enjoy the gentle climate in the place known as City of Eternal Spring.

dubes sonego / Shutterstock.com
dubes sonego / Shutterstock.com

4. Macedonia

According to the Times, this is THE next Balkan destination. The first good sign: there are no McDonalds. All closed. God bless them. The capital Skopje was recently rated one of the 10 least expensive cities in the world. Once one of the great crossroads of history, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and much later Communist empires held sway and left their cultural, architectural and culinary influences. Skopje is a vibrant melting pot of all of them. A surprising treasure trove of natural beauty, there is much to sight-see or for the more active to climb, hike or ride. It is landlocked but the beaches of Lake Ohrid are renowned as are the vineyards are a mere three hour drive across the Greek border.

Macedonia

3. The Faroe Islands

The Faroes are a scattering of rocky islands 150 miles due north of Scotland in the north Atlantic. It has a famously ornery climate and a brooding sub-Arctic other-worldly beauty that traditionally drew bird-watchers, naturalists and trekkers. It is one of the world capitals for those adorable puffins, which also show up on local menus. Its current celebrity is based on a unique new cuisine as set out in The New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto that is traditional Scandinavian food meets The Iron Chef. Not much grows in that climate so they forage for herbs, harvest seaweed and pair them with locally grown mutton and the superb deep-sea Faroe Bank cod and mussels and serve them with wild angelica on driftwood plates, all washed down with schnapps followed by local beer and cheese. An unforgettable feast after an unforgettable day trekking up the highest mountain at Slættaratindur. It is tucked away off the beaten track but as part of Denmark, it’s a short flight from Copenhagen.

Faroe Islands

2. Bolivia

A definite hint  that things are happening here: the culinary genius behind the world’s # 1 rated restaurant for three consecutive years in Copenhagen has opened a place in La Paz. Another South American bad boy turning it around drawing investors and interest in its unsurpassed scenery and cities. It has become a destination for foodies, trekkers wine snobs and adventure seekers. Who knew Bolivia made wine, let alone having an acclaimed wine route?  From the exuberance of La Paz to an array of sublime World Heritage sites to spectacular settings to hike, ski, mountain bike and exhaust yourself to your heart’s content. You can follow Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid south to Tupiza, but lay off the train robbing and your visit will end much happier than theirs.

Potosi, Bolivia

1. Durban, South Africa

Long overshadowed by its two bigger, siblings, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa’s third largest city is stepping into the limelight. ‘Durbs’ as it’s known is undergoing a serious reno and upgrade, thanks in part to facilities from the 2010 Worlds Cup. The beachside Rivertown neighborhood of warehouses and Art Deco buildings is being transformed into a happening ‘hood of galleries, restaurants and skateboard installations to jumpstart its rather tranquil night life. Durban is also home to a large ethnic Indian community and the influence is unmistakable. It was here that a young lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi settled in 1883 and began his legendary life as activist and leader.

lcswart / Shutterstock.com
lcswart / Shutterstock.com

10 Things to See and Do in Colombia

Colombia is now safe, affordable and attracting tourists like never before. The beautiful beckoning beaches, the crystal clear waters, the ancient archaeological sites and the salsa dancing are just a few of the things this country is known for. This vibrant country is alive with music and color; has a wonderful climate and is welcoming visitors with open arms. Hike up an active volcano, explore a walled city or dive with schools of hammerhead sharks; it is all possible in the beautiful city of Colombia. Here are 10 things to see and do for every visitor heading here.

10. Scuba Dive

There are many sites to dive and snorkel throughout Colombia, but if you are looking for one of the world’s best diving spots, you must head to Malpelo; three rocks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It can only be reached by joining a diving cruise, but once there visitors are treated to the Mount Everest of sharks. Schools of sharks including Hammerheads, Silky, White-Tips and Whale sharks are all present here. If you aren’t an experienced diver you will want to stay away from this dive spot and check out the calmer waters of Providencia and San Andres where warm water, great visibility, colorful coral, a variety of exotic fish and two sunken ships await you. The coast near Santa-Marta is another popular dive spot with extremely low prices, leading many people to get certified here, as well as offering corals, turtles and a variety of fish.

Benoit Daoust / Shutterstock.com
Benoit Daoust / Shutterstock.com

9. Go ATV’ing in the Mountains

Get out of the city and hit the mountains in an off-road vehicle for a thrilling adventure on your epic trip to the country of Colombia. Riders will be in for mountainous trails, farmlands, wild dirt roads along the countryside, mud pits and at times, scary turns. Off-roading is best done with a guide as the mountains of Colombia can be a scary place if you do not know where you are going. Just outside the city of Medellin is the best place to experience this heart-pumping adventure as the Northern Andes provide the perfect landscape. The ATV’s are known to be in good shape, the guides are friendly, knowledgeable and speak English and visitors are provided with all the safety gear they require. All you need to bring is a change of clothes and a sense of adventure!

TPm13thx / Shutterstock.com
TPm13thx / Shutterstock.com

8. Salsa Dance in Cali

It is the self-proclaimed salsa capital of the world and whether you want to put your dancing shoes on or watch others as they move to the beat, Colombia is the perfect place to do so. It is hard to keep your hips from dancing when salsa music is present everywhere in this country, from street vendors to shops to dance clubs. Cali in particular is crammed full of salsa bars, clubs and live music venues. Whether you are visiting during one of the many salsa festivals that happen throughout the year, taking a salsa class for fun or simply watching the professionals with their intricate moves and choreography; salsa is sure to be a part of everyone’s trip to the country of Colombia.

Salsa Dance, Colombia
Andrey Gontarev / Shutterstock.com

7. Cycle Bogota

Bogota’s bike paths are one of the most extensive path systems in the world, connecting residents and visitors to major Bus Rapid Transit routes, parks and community facilities. Therefore it seems there is no better way to explore the city than cycling. Sundays are always the most fun day to cycle as the city shuts down 120 km of roads for the exclusive use of pedestrians and bicyclers, an event called ‘Cyclovia’ that attracts a mere two million people each week. Entrepreneurs hit the streets and set up temporary bike repair shops along the road sides and street entertainers perform for cyclers. There are many tours that offer guided bike tours if you do not feel comfortable tackling these busy streets on your own.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

6. Visit the statues of San Agustín

Most visitors find hiring a jeep or horse the easiest way to explore the freestanding monumental statues around San Agustín if they want to explore the statues around the town first, before heading to the park. These freestanding monumental statues are carved of stone that was left behind by a mysterious pre-Colombian civilization that existed between the 6th and 14th century AD. The statues are markers of ceremonial and burial sites where they buried their dead in the fetal position with personal objects such as pottery and gold within tombs underground. The largest collection of these religious monuments and sculptures can be found at the San Agustín Archaeological Park. It features over 600 stone statues that include human figures, animals, deities and monsters, the largest of these is said to be 23 feet high. Dive into history and discover these amazing statues both around town and in the park.

San Agustín, Colombia

5. Tour a Coffee Farm

Whether you take a day tour or choose to spend time staying on a coffee farm, the experience will be unforgettable. Colombia is known worldwide for producing unbelievable coffee. They are one the largest producers, with 500,000-plus growers and the unique benefit of having two annual harvests. A visit to a coffee farm is a hands-on interactive experience that shows visitors the entire process of how coffee is produced. A coffee expert will be in charge of teaching you about the planting, picking, drying and roasting processes that produce your morning cup of Joe. Coffee farms are noted for their breathtaking lush settings, with the shiny leaved coffee shrubs, sloped hills and topped off with banana plants and bamboo like forests. Experience a day in the life of a coffee producer or spend a few days, swinging in the hammocks that overlook the beautiful farms.

Coffee Farm Colombia

4. Climb Nevado del Ruiz

We suggest taking a guided tour if you feel like tackling this active volcano, and we do suggest tackling it as it offers incredible views, majestic scenery on the way up and an amazing personal challenge. This volcano actually has three craters and summits, with one being closed off to hikers due to danger. December through March is the best time to climb here as the dry season sees better weather and offers better conditions all around. Guides will point out different vegetation, unique flora and fauna, a variety of birds and provide you with meals along the way. It is extremely important to be prepared for the altitude changes as they are extreme and many visitors, who rush up this mountain, simply cannot make it to the top. Planning ahead with a guide, checking the weather conditions and being prepared are ways you can truly enjoy this awesome experience.

Nevado del Ruiz

3. Visit the Tierradentro Tombs

These tombs are located underground in the Tierradentro Archaeological Park and although they were created around 700 A.D., they were not discovered until the 1930’s. The tombs are circular, some as deep as 9 meters and reachable by steep, smooth original steps through trapdoors and are decorated with elaborate drawings. There are four sites in which you can see these tombs, and visitors should start with Segovia as it houses 29 tombs with black, red and white patterns that have survived the years. The 14 km circuit that takes travelers around the sites is a breathtaking walk with stops at the two small museums to learn even more. Guides are quite helpful explaining the history of the tombs, especially if you can understand a little Spanish. The best part about this experience may just be the locals who put tables and chairs outside their houses and offer home-cooked meals and beer after your hike.

Tierradentro Tombs

2. Explore the town of Cartagena

This ancient city is set on the Caribbean Sea, with its enchanting Old Town, scenic beaches and relaxed vibe. The Old Town here is the place most tourists flock to with its amazing historical architecture, cobblestone streets, plazas and squares, historic churches and excellent museums. Boutique hotels, horse-drawn carriages clomping down the narrow roads and tiny sidewalk cafes all contribute to setting the mood here. Salsa music drifts endlessly from doorways, night clubs and through the parks. The sun beats down hot here during the day so people take to one of the many choices of water, from the sea to the lagoons. Dusk brings bicyclers out to travel the raised fortress walls, looking out onto the breathtaking scenery. At night, make sure to put your dancing shoes on as the music will tempt you into one of the alluring salsa clubs throughout the city.

Colombia

1. Take an Amazon Jungle Tour

One cannot simply visit Colombia without making their way into the Amazon rain forest and along the longest river in the world, home to 212 species of mammals and 195 reptiles. The Southern tip of Colombia is where travelers make their way to visit the rain forest and there are many tours that take you into the tight blanket of trees that surround the winding brown river. Unique jungle lodges can be booked ahead of time in the rain forest, as well as the boat, canoe and kayak tours. What awaits visitors are the largest lily pads in the world, many varieties of snakes, colorful birds, towering trees and communities of indigenous people. Many tour companies take you into Peru for an even deeper jungle experience and missing the Amazon Rain forest while in Colombia would be an absolute travesty.

Amazon Rainforest

13 Places to See While Single

Travelling single for the first time can be downright scary but if you have courage to take the plunge it’s something you won’t regret. To travel single is to indulge one’s self. Whether you want to party hard in a hot sunny destination where the drinks keep flowing and the bars never close, or whether you want to find inner peace in a tranquil setting where reading a book on the beach all day is encouraged; there is a place for every single traveler in this world. From the beaches of Costa Rica to the mountains of New Zealand, these destinations are full of adventure, relaxation and friendly locals and fellow travelers that will make you feel at home. When you need some time alone; pack your bags, hop on a plane and explore the twelve best places to travel when single.

13. Cali, Colombia

As Colombia’s third largest city; Cali parties more than any other city in this country. Known as The Salsa capital of the World, you can dance from dusk until dawn; no questions asked. If you are looking to relax after a big night of salsa dancing, why not head to the Cali Zoo. The focus here is on Colombian wildlife and education. Stroll through the lush city park and and grab a bite of the seafood chowder or lobster that is always offered. Boasting some of the most beautiful women in the world, professional salsa dancers at every turn and a warm sultry temperature all year long; this city is a must visit when single.

Cali Colombia

12. Iceland

With a country built on tourism and not the most romantic place you think of when you think vacation, Iceland is the perfect destination for the single traveler. Most locals speak impeccable English and English signs and menus are offered throughout the country putting single travelers at ease. Home of the excursion day trips, Iceland offers a chance to meet fellow travelers while whale watching, hiking or relaxing in the hot springs. Catch the northern lights from September to April or choose to travel from mid-May to August where midnight sun keeps it light 24/7. Don’t be fooled by the serenity of this country, the locals also know how to throw a party and keep it going all night long; especially during the summer months.

Reykjavik Iceland

11. Australia

Home to thousands of solo travelers a year, you certainly won’t stick out here if you are alone. Besides the irresistible accents and the sense of welcoming from the locals; you will find a never ending supply of hostels that are begging to be stayed in. From snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef to climbing The Blue Mountains in Sydney to exploring the Outback; Australia is a perfect place to check off some of those things on your bucket list. Make new friends, fall in love with the countryside and explore some fantastic beaches. From Sydney to Perth; Australia as a whole is considered incredibly safe for international travelers.

Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com
Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com

10. Panama

With solo travel being a norm and English widely spoken throughout the city, Panama City has much to see and do. With its lively and diverse culture coupled with the famous Panama Canal and being one of the friendliest Central American destinations, this country can’t be missed. For the single adventure traveler this country is packed with zip lining, white water rafting and surfing opportunities. For a more laid back vacation one must not miss travelling to the San Blas Islands where tourism has not yet taken over. The native Kuna’s control this land and you will find untouched nature and beauty. Sail the islands, sleep in eco-friendly accommodations and embrace your soul here. Make sure to give yourself time to really enjoy all this country has to offer.

San Blas Islands, Panama

9. Maui, Hawaii

Pristine white sand beaches, friendly local people and a currency that won’t have you scratching your head in confusion, Maui is the perfect Hawaiian Island to visit as a single traveler. If adults-only resorts are something that you’re looking for, Lahaina in West Maui has no shortage of them. Five star hotels line the ocean with private beach access, pools and spas. If a condo rental is more your style there are plenty to rent steps from the ocean. Renting a car from the airport is faster than claiming your luggage and driving the Island is just one way to see the beauty. Stand up paddle board with the sea turtles, kayak with the whales and attend a beach/ohana party.

Maui, Hawaii

8. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Although not the safest of cities on our list; Rio deserves to be one of the top twelve places to see when single. Where else boasts gorgeous mountains, pristine beaches and a party like Carnaval? Besides having one of the best hotel bars in the world (check out the Fasano Hotel), Rio is known for its beaches. Take a walk around and mingle with the locals on the beach and we promise you an invite to a party. Make sure to hook up with some fellow travelers and explore the beautiful downtown area lined with churches and museums. If you are going to visit during the biggest carnival in the world, be sure to book early and prepare yourself for a lot of dancing and little sleep.

Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com
Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com

7. New York City

It is hard to feel alone when you are immersed in a city that’s home to more than 18 million people. This concrete jungle is packed with so much to do you won’t have time to even remember that you’re travelling single. Now is the time to spoil your single self and dine out at a world renowned restaurant (If you feel overwhelmed by dining single, make reservations at non-peak times) or catch that Broadway Show you have always wanted to see. Climb up The Empire State Building, take a boat to see The Statue of Liberty or stroll through Central Park. There isn’t a better place in the world to check out the nightlife than in the “city that never sleeps”.

Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com
Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com

6. Costa Rica

For the backpacker adventurer Costa Rica is a must visit when solo. With two major airports to fly into and endless stretches of beach and jungle; there is something for everyone. Relatively safe and reasonably priced makes Costa Rica desirable to travelers. While there why not join a surf camp and learn to surf while meeting fellow travelers. Take a ride into the rainforest where you can discover sloths, monkeys and a variety of lizards, snakes and frogs. Immerse yourself in the culture and eat locally or try your hand at the nightlife that often lasts until dawn. Whatever it is you do here, we promise you will enjoy it. The locals are friendly, the beer is cheap and the weather is warm, what else does a single traveler need?

Pura Vida Costa Rica

5. Bali, Indonesia

Yoga on the beach. Lodging on the beach. Temples and Ruins. Beautiful beaches and clear water. Must we say more? Packed with spiritual seekers, backpackers and international travelers; Bali is the perfect get away for the single soul seeking traveler. The Balinese people are known to be friendly, welcoming and make you feel right at home. Rent a motorbike, take a stroll through town or raft down the Ayung River for a little adventure. If you are looking to explore a less remote place, hop on a plane to a smaller island; we suggest Lombok. Filled with local markets, celebrations and temples like none other; Bali is the perfect place to relax, unwind and really find your inner zen.

Bali, Indonesia

4. Miami, Florida

For the single traveler who is ready to party, look no further than Miami. With beautiful weather, beautiful beaches and beautiful people; Miami is a hot destination for single travelers. Head to South Beach where you will find no shortage of velvet rope lined nightclubs with the hippest DJ’s. Bask in the sun on Miami Beach where countless events and activities run year round. Be prepared to open your wallet in this town; this is not for the backpacker. Hotels will be a major expense but if you want the royal treatment, book yourself into one that offers a spa and bask in the glory. Make sure to dine out at one of Miami’s waterfront restaurants and enjoy a sunset view.

Miami club

3.  New Zealand

With a landscape of rolling hills to jagged mountaintops, New Zealand is not only beautiful but one of the safest countries to visit. Friendly, open-minded locals make this destination a favorite for single travelers. Meet fellow adventures while you are bungee jumping or jet boating the rivers. Find friends in The Lord of The Rings tour; where you can tour actual filming locations. Relax in thermal hot springs after a day of wine touring or take in a Rugby game with the famous Maori players. With New Zealand being one of the best hiking (or “tramping” as the locals call it) destinations in the world, don’t miss out on partaking in one of the nine epic hikes through the countryside. “Wow” just won’t sum up this vacation destination.

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand

2. Ireland

A country filled with friendly people, beautiful historic bed and breakfasts and a whole lot of pubs; Ireland rounds off our top twelve destinations to travel to when single. Locals are more than happy to share directions, stories and a pint of Guinness with any traveler that crosses their path. Countless castles, shamrock tours and a pub at every corner means lots of fellow solo travelers to meet. Take a trip to Dingle beach and meet the local dolphin or join one of many guided tours around Ireland. If you don’t mind driving on the left hand side of the road, rent a car and explore the monuments of prehistoric Ireland at Bru na Boinne or the Titanic Museum at Cobh. Ireland will make any solo traveler feel welcome, as that is the way of the Irish.

Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

1. Ibiza, Spain

Though recent tourism efforts are trying to steer this city towards a more family friendly vibe, Ibiza is still one of the most notorious party destinations on the planet making it ideal for the single traveler. It’s filled with colorful clubs that run till the sun comes up, booming house and trance music and people who want nothing more than to party all night long surrounded by beautiful people. Big name DJ’s are always coming through hosting mega parties that’ll keep you dancing all night long. This little island’s nightlife is centered on 2 areas: Ibiza Town on the southern shore and Sant Antoni to the west. No matter which spot you choose as your base you’re guaranteed an outrageous and unforgettable vacation.

Beach party Ibiza, Spain

5 Bizarre Foods of South America

Waste not want not. In South America nothing gets wasted, especially if we’re talking about meat, as there are tons of soups, stews and other dishes that use EVERY part of the animal (eyes and brains included). If you’re an adventurous eater then South America is the place for you because there are many regional delicacies that go beyond nose-to-tail. Check out these 5 bizarre foods you can try while traveling through South America:

5. Guinea Pig (Cuy) –Peru

Served throughout the Andes Mountains but particularly popular in Peru, Cuy are guinea pigs specifically raised for eating (in case you were worried about it being someone’s pet before making it to your plate). You’ll have to get past the fact that they’re served whole with the head and feet still intact because this is almost always how they come. The most common preparation method is fried and the taste is kind of like greasier chicken.
cuy

4. Ants (Hormiga culona) –Colombia

Hormiga Culona also known as Big Butt ants are quite popular in Colombia and you can find them served up as a snack just like cocktail peanuts. Usually the head, wings and pincers are removed and then the body is soaked in salt water overnight for flavor before they’re fried and served but they’re also sometimes cooked whole. Since these tiny delicacies are only collected once a year they are rather expensive. In fact a pound of ants is about 3 times the price of a pound of quality coffee.
fried ants

3. Cow Udder (Ubre) –Chile

When we said no part of the animal goes to waste, we meant it….including the udder! In Chile, Ubre Asada is a specialty where the cows udder is cleaned and soaked to remove any remaining milk before being grilled on an open fire. The texture is spongy but grilling over an open fire gives it a charred smoky flavor.

 

cow udder
cow udder

2. Goat Stomach (Buchada) –Brazil

If you make it to the state of Ceará in Brazil’s north east, you may be offered some of the states traditional dish Buchada. The internal organs of a goat (usually a kid…aka baby goat) are chopped and mixed with seasonings and the blood of the animal before being stuffed into the goat stomach and cooked. While maybe this doesn’t sound appetizing to you, the locals love it.
stuffed stomach

1. Corn Beer (Chicha de jora) –South America

Chicha de jora is a fermented corn beer popular throughout South America including Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. While the thought of a fermented corn beer seems harmless enough, it’s the preparation method that warrants this beverage taking the #1 spot on our list. Traditionally, the corn used to make the beer is chewed by the Chicha maker, spit out and formed into discs which are laid out to dry and ferment. Apparently the enzymes in the saliva help to break down the starch into sugar to aid the fermentation process.
corn beer