Exciting Nautical Adventures Every Aquaphile Should Experience

There’s nothing quite like getting out to sea and sailing the mighty waters and if you’ve ever experienced it, there’s a good chance you’re hooked. For some, sailing around the world is a dream but for others, a blithe reality. Whether it’s your first time sailing or you’re an accomplished ocean master, the spray of the sea and the feel of the salty wind in your hair never gets old. Moorings and anchorages are easy to find alongside dynamic coastal destinations, from classic sailing points such as the British Virgin Islands to exotic stops like Zanzibar.

7. Galápagos Islands | Ecuador

Sailing in the Galapagos Islands is like cruising through one of the world’s most magical places filled with so many different species it’s literally a wild kingdom. Sailing around the volcanic peninsula, the name Galapagos conjures images of some of the world’s most important wildlife but it’s also a lesser known yet equally thrilling sailing destination. A live-aboard boat is one of the best ways to experience sailing throughout the area–take a week-long cruise aboard a yacht (but don’t worry, there’s usually a motor just incase the wind’s not sufficient). The days can be wiled away diving or snorkeling or just relaxing offshore or head to land and cavort–while treading carefully ofcourse–among the vast numbers of giant tortoises, playful sea lions, emerald iguanas, and bounty of bird species in this ecological Eden. Get there on any of the daily flights leaving Quito, Ecuador’s capital, via Guayaquil.

6. Bay of Islands | New Zealand

Over the last decade, there have been an abundance of cruising boats around the Bay Islands in Honduras–spectacular scenery and world-class worthy diving and snorkeling are easy guesses for why this small island region has been named one of the largest per-population estimated rates of boat ownership around the globe. From 25km to 50 km off the northern mainland coast, Honduras’s three main islands–Guanaja, Roatan, and Utila–are home to barrier reefs that are the world’s second largest, churning with fish, sea turtles, sponges, whale sharks, coral, and rays. Dozens of coves make for an interesting nautical adventure, where clear waters beckon into the cool, refreshing turquoise depths. Most of the other islands, numbering around 150, are free of the advancing development found on the three favourites, making it a choice area for exploring. Anchor offshore and spend weeks discovering some of nature’s finest, uninhabited islands.

5. French Riviera

The glitz, the glamour…the sailing! Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Monaco, Nice–this revered coastline is brimming with myths and legends and scandals of the rich and famous. This is where ultra-luxurious yachts host some of the most enduring, hedonistic lifestyles in the world but not to fret, there’s still room for the average sailor swapping the sometimes-pretentious coast for offshore pursuits. You don’t need a monumental yacht–you can hire a classic sail boat and crew for a trip around the Cote D’Azur–or if you’re a greenhorn, take an independent journey around the calm waters. One of the best places to avoid the crowds is to sail to Port Cros and I_le de Porquerolle, a beautiful, pristine paradise several nautical miles from the Cote-D’Azur’s stratospheric indulgences. These unspoilt islands are the best place to be unseen, showcasing the pretty, rocky inlets, rugged shorelines, and some of the riviera’s finest stretches of sand.

4. British Virgin Islands

The name British Virgin Islands swiftly brings to mind nature’s most unsullied landscapes and one of the best-known destinations for getting your sails wet, whether as an experienced captain or complete novice. Stretched out in front, like in a sailor’s most vivid dream, is the Sir Frances Drake Channel, the main focus of the nautical crowd. The trade winds are so beautifully consistent, the sun shines almost every day, cerulean water is all about, and most surrounding islands are so close they’re navigated by eye alone. The total navigating area in the British Virgin Islands is a broad 51 x 24 kilometers, a perfect amount of space for an easygoing journey. With hundreds of anchorages across more than 40 islands, this is one easy place to sail. With hundreds upon hundreds of protected bays ideal for mooring for a day–or days on end–and such tame currents there’s virtually never a cause for concern, the BVIs are seafarer’s Shangri-la.

3. Croatia

Croatia has headed in one direction only when it comes to the travel world, and that is up-way up. Called the “new Tuscany,” and reminiscent of both the Riviera and the Greek Islands, Croatia has gained substantial attention from the sailing world. The in-crowd is here, taking full advantage of the incredible conditions and lower costs of sailing in the Adriatic. Less trend-setting and more timeless, Croatia’s 1777km coastline and no less than 1184 islands practically begs to be discovered and there’s really no better way to achieve that then by sailing. It puts you in the perfect position for all the best places. Dubrovnik, Kornati, Split, Zadar, Skradin, and countless other coastal cities keep sailors tied up for weeks, even months. Traditional fishing villages, clandestine coves, and remote islands like Elafiti make the decision between land and water difficult but the clear choice is both. Gateway cities like famed and stunning Dubrovnik are history-filled, landmark dotted travel havens–be sure to set your feet on dry land, even if just for a while.

2. Nile River | Egypt

One of the most relaxing and euphoric experiences in Egypt is sailing up the Nile River on a traditional Felucca boat, a wood vessel used in calmer waters of the Nile and rigged with one, and sometimes two, canvas lateen sails. Crewed by two or three people and taking up to ten passengers, a Felucca is still a great way to slow-travel outside of the popular and most frequented ferries and motorboats. Feluccas are more than just budget-friendly, but that’s one of the great things about them. You can hardly believe how inexpensive a journey up the Nile can be–a fraction of the cost of sailing on a dahabiyya, extravagant houseboats that have become the Nile’s version of a Rolls Royce. Following a millennia of transportation over one of the world’s oldest trade routes, a sailing journey will take you deep into nautical history and tradition. Start in Aswan and take the well-sailed route to Edfu, stopping at landmarks and smaller islands en route.

1. Zanzibar

Arty, edgy, and historically rich, Zanzibar is a proper archipelago off Tanzania’s east coast in the Indian Ocean. It’s a destination ideal for stepping off Tanzania’s beaten path–in fact, get right off any path and onto the waters surrounding Zanzibar and the area’s wild, raw backdrop will take your breath away. It’s not hard to feel as if you’ve slipped back a century or two, as the flat-topped, low-rise buildings in Stone Town’s (a World Heritage accredited town) come into view off the ocean, laid out along the coast while the Muslim call to prayer reproduces itself endlessly across the water. Old town, with it’s twisting, narrow streets and fabulously adorned doors evoke memories of a Persia lost, ancient kingdom, sultans, and caliphs. If you’re not up for manning a boat yourself, hire a dhow, an ancient traditional Arabic vessel, to whisk you off into the distance where snorkeling and diving are first-rate and the beaches are stunning.

The Top Destinations Being Destroyed By Tourism

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

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

10. Venice, Italy

Photos By: Shutterstock

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

9. Great Pyramids, Egypt

Photos By: Shutterstock

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

8. Roman Colosseum, Italy

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

7. Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Photos By: Shutterstock

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

6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Photo By: Shutterstock

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

5. Antarctica

Photos By: Shutterstock

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

4. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

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

3. Great Wall of China

Photo By: Shutterstock

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

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

Photo By: Shutterstock

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

1. Galapagos Islands

Photos By: Shutterstock

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

The 6 Worst Airline Disasters of 2015

Airline disasters are becoming real, in a very scary way. The year 2014 was a horrible year for airline disasters, where aircrafts seemingly disappeared in thin air or crashed horribly. Unfortunately, the year of 2015 isn’t shaping up to be any better with the crashes of some major aircrafts. From planes crashing into the mountains to planes exploding in mid-air to unknown reasons, these are the six worst airline disasters thus far in 2015.

6. Indonesian Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules

It was June 30, 2015 when a C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed near a residential area, it was carrying 12 crew members and 109 passengers on board. All that were aboard were killed, along with 22 people on the ground. The aircraft was transporting military personnel and their families, along with paying civilians; a practice that is in violation of government regulations but is often tolerated in this part of the world. It crashed only two minutes after taking off and according to eyewitnesses clipped a cellphone tower after diving right and exploded in the air. After the investigation was complete it came out that one of the aircraft’s propellers had malfunctioned just before the aircraft hit the tower, indicating a mechanical failure.

YUDHA LESMANA – ASSOCIATED PRESS
Photo by: Yudha Lesmana/Associated Press via Star Tribune

5. Syrian Air Force An-26 Crash

On January 18, 2015 an Antonov An-26 crashed while attempting to land at the Abu al-Duhur military airport in Syria. The plane was operated by the Syrian Air Force and was carrying 30 Syrian troops, 5 Iranian military experts, as well as military equipment and ammunition. The reason the crash happened is still unknown as Syrian state media told the world that the crash happened due to heavy fog and or technical issues, while Al-Qaeda affiliated group Al-Nusra Front claimed they shot it down. Either way, a tragedy for those 35 people and their families.

Photo by: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons

4. TransAsia Airways Flight 235

This domestic flight crashed into the Keelung River on February 4, 2015 shortly after taking off from Taipei Songshan Airport. The aircraft was a 10-month old ATR 72-600 that was carrying 53 passengers and five crew members. Two minutes after taking off the pilot reported an engine flameout and after climbing to the maximum height of 1,500 feet and then descending, the other engine was shut off incorrectly. Of the 58 people on board, only 15 survived and that includes one crew member. This was the second fatal accident involving a TransAsia Airways ATR aircraft within seven months. Human error was the cause of this crash and after the investigation was complete, all 49 TransAsia Airways ATR pilots were put through testing. Ten of those pilots failed the engine-out oral test and 19 pilots failed to show up, all were suspended for a month.

LauraKick / Shutterstock.com
LauraKick / Shutterstock.com

3. Trigana Air Service Flight 257

This 45 minute scheduled passenger flight by Indonesian domestic airline Trigana crashed on August 16, 2015. It crashed 30 minutes after takeoff killing all 49 passengers and five crew members. Knowing what caused this crash is almost impossible as the terrain in which it crashed into has never been explored by humans. Although high altitude rescuers went in to recover victims and wreckage, they were unable to recover all the bodies. Still under investigation, Indonesian aviation safety, or lack thereof it, has been brought back into the spotlight once again this year.

Photo by: Wikipedia
Photo by: Wikipedia

2. Germanwings Flight 9525

This scheduled international passenger flight from Spain to Germany crashed in the French Alps on March 24, 2015. The Airbus A320-200 was carrying 144 passengers and six crew members, who were all killed. It was Germanwings first fatal accident in the 18 years that the company has existed. The investigation showed that the crash was deliberately caused by the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz who had been treated for suicidal tendencies and was declared unfit to work by his doctor. Lubitz hid this from his employer and during the flight locked the pilot out of the cockpit, before rapidly descending into the mountains. As a result of this incident aviation authorities around the world implemented new regulations that require two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times, so this tragedy will never happen again.

Photo by: Reuters via The Wall Street Journal
Photo by: Reuters via The Wall Street Journal

1. Kogalymavia Flight 9268

The most recent airline disaster to happen in 2015 was the international chartered passenger flight operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia. It crashed in northern Sinai on October 31, 2015 en route from Egypt to Russia. There was a total of 217 passengers and seven crew members on the Airbus A321-231. With a total of 224 fatalities, this marks the deadliest plane crash in 2015, along with being the deadliest crash in both the history of Russian aviation and within Egyptian territory. Investigations are currently underway but it has been stated that the plane broke up in mid-flight. How it broke up in mid-flight is still not known and there will rumors that continue to circulate until this is determined.

Photo by: MetroJet via Independent
Photo by: MetroJet via Independent

The Top Places To See Before It’s Too Late

Technically we are all in places that are about to change drastically. There are many remote idyllic, places being threatened by climate change that face melting glaciers or catastrophic flooding. But then so does Miami. Whether it’s rising sea levels, desertification, torrential monsoons, melting glaciers or ocean acidification, climate change is rapidly altering the landscape of our planet and perhaps about to destroy some of the world’s legendary vacation spots. Then there is the traditional destruction inflicted by human error and downright imbecility. More hotel rooms, spas and golf courses are part of the inherent contradictions of tourism increasing accessibility means increasing degradation. There seems to be no solution to that equation. We will be one of the last generations to see some of the Earth’s most cherished places. Here’s our list of 20 places to see before they vanish to climate change, over development and encroachment. It’s a survey of various sources from CNN to MNN (as in Mother Nature Network), at the same time being quite conscious of the other contradiction that advising more people to visit already vulnerable sites is farther contributing to the degradation. Perhaps you can solve that moral quandary by designing am environmentally sensitive visit. Or contribute to conservancy groups that are fighting to save them.

20. Gozo, Malta

CNN has this theory that once a foreign city is featured in a blockbuster movie, it takes a hit from an influx of curious tourists. Gozo, population 37,000 is a short ferry ride from Malta. Its website proudly proclaims its natural beauty, its “tortoise-like pace” and amazing history. Gozo means ‘joy’ in Castilian, so named at its founding in 1282. Last year Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt shot their latest film “By the Sea” there. Directed by Jolie, it appears to be a drama about an artistic couple’s fading marriage with Gozo subbing for France. CNN warns that “There are few better advertisements for a destination than a good movie,” and expects hordes of Brangelina fans to disturb the tranquility in search of the places the couple tried to rekindle their romance.

Gozo Malta

19. St. Kitts

With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is passing under the spell of the Evil Trinity of tourism; Big name hotel chains, golf course designers and marina builders. It is being done in the name of sustainability which may be easier to do environmentally that in preserving the spirit of a place heading to over development. When they open the world’s first edible golf course, you know the gimmicks have just begun.

St. Kitts

18. The Seychelles

National Geographic rates the beach at Anse Source d’Argent as the best in the world. One of nature’s most convincing versions of paradise. The beauty of the pink sand, the coral reef sheltered by massive granite boulders brings many beach lovers to this archipelago of more than a hundred islands in the Indian Ocean but the water rises relentlessly, the perfect beaches are eroding and its coral reef, like others around the world is being degraded. Barring some miraculous engineering innovation or divine intervention, many of the islands could be lost in the next 50 years.

Seychelles

17. The Athabasca Glacier, Canada

With its relatively convenient location in mid-Alberta between Banff and Jasper National Parks, The Athabasca Glacier attracts more tourists than any other on the continent. It is also the largest ice field between the poles. It’s a kind of frozen tributary of the massive Columbia Ice Fields. But with ice fields north of 90, as old hands call the Arctic, the Athabasca at 52 degrees north latitude is in for The Big Melt. Parks Canada estimates it’s receding up to ten feet a year. At this rate maybe too far gone for the next generation to experience.

Athabasca Glacier Canada

16. St. Helena

In its own way, St. Helena is an exotic destination. A volcanic speck of 50 square miles in the middle of the south Atlantic, it is the definition of remote, 4,000 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. Let’s face it, after Waterloo, the British were not about to exile Napoleon in Paradise. Part of its cache is that getting there is a challenge, by the Royal Mail ship St. Helena from Cape Town, Walvis Bay or Ascension Island. It’s somewhat for bird watching and its rugged terrain protects well preserved Georgian buildings. After Longwood, Napoleon’s home after 1815 (now a museum), the island’s biggest celebrity draw is Jonathon the tortoise, age 180 and going strong. The British have sunk the better part of half a billion dollars into an airport for the tiny island to open early in 2016. For that chunk of change, expect more than the usual 3,000 or so visitors soon.

St. Helena Island

15. Taj Mahal, India

Even the great frescoes of the Sistine Chapel dulled with age and the emission from centuries of candle smoke and neglect. But they were inside the walls of a building in the First World, whereas the Taj Mahal is neither. The whole point of the spectacular tribute to an Emperor’s late wife, is its pristine whiteness indicative of the purity of their love. But the air quality in India’s major cities is worse than the horrific pollution levels of Beijing. Fading to yellow or rust is not just a cosmetic downgrade it degrades its very meaning. An ornate mausoleum of white marble, The Taj Mahal is the sparkling jewel of Muslim art in India. Built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, The Taj currently has more than 3 million visitors a year and the heat, foot traffic and toxic air are beginning to undermine the building’s structural integrity. It’s not hard to see a lengthy shutdown for restoration in the near future, not to mention banning people from going inside.

Taj Mahal

14. Dead Sea

There is the old joke that someone says he’s so old he remembers when the Dead Sea was only sick. Sadly that’s no longer just a joke. It is being sucked dry by the water-desperate countries around it who are helping themselves to the water in the River Jordan, the sea’s main source. It has shrunk by a third in size and scientists fear if the rate of attrition continues, the intensely salted water some claim has medicinal qualities, has maybe 50 years of life left.

Dead Sea

13. The Galapagos Islands

Truth be told Europeans have been abusing the Galapagos since the late 19th century when pirates used it as a base to launch their raids. Darwin didn’t arrive until 1835 to begin on what would become The Origin of the Species 25 years later. Now there are pages of tours echoing the name of his ship The Beagle. The islands are threatened by too many people. Too many insensitive people acting reprehensibly to degrade this natural treasure to take the greatest selfies and poach plants and animals (not necessarily at the same time.) The prognosis is much better than many other sites however because the ecosystem, while delicate, can still be saved by limiting if not stopping altogether, the onslaught of tourists. So if it’s on your bucket list…tread lightly.

Galapagos Islands

12. Glacier National Park Montana

In fact, anything with the word “Glacier’ in its name or title may be at risk, barring some miraculous reversal in climate change, the effects are well documented. They are living on borrowed time, the more temperate the climate the more critical the patient. The number of glaciers in the stunningly beautiful Glacier National Park on the Montana-Canada border has shrunk by 75% in the last century. Pessimistic estimates say the glaciers and the ecosystem that depends on them could be gone by 2030. The good news if you’re into dark humor; the surfing in Montana is about to improve dramatically.

Glacier Bay National Park Montana

11. South Australia

One of those areas facing the climate change double whammy, coastal flooding and interior desertification the Australian government has studied and published many daunting studies on the effects. Rising sea levels will threaten hundreds of miles of beaches and the lovely city of Adelaide will be put at risk. The soaring temperatures and absence of rain in the interior will challenge some of the most renowned wine growing regions in the world, including the Barossa and Clare Valleys. While the region accounts for only 7% of Australia’s population, it is also responsible for half of the $1.3 billion in wine exports. Unless you are entertained somehow by catastrophic flooding and drought, best to go soon.

McLaren Vale, South Australia

10. Greek Islands

There are 6,000 islands from Aegina to Zaforas in the Ionian and Aegean seas off the Greek coast. Only 227 are inhabited and only 50 have airports. Traveling between them has always been a question of taking leisurely ferries with shall we say occasionally regular schedules. Until now after a Greek airline has announced to connect another 100 by seaplane. As always accessibility is a mixed blessing. The islands of Crete, Skyros and Pelion are first on the list with more to come as early as year’s end. Book accordingly. Unless you like crowded beaches, then this is your lucky year.

Aigiali village in Amorgos island in Greece

9. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

The famous falls are twice the height of Niagara with a fraction of the tourists. At least until the new Victoria Falls International Airport, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia, border opens in the fall of 2015. It’s being built to handle what pilots call “Heavy Metal”, wide body A340’s and Boeing 777’s and their human cargo. It will be a huge boost for the tourism sector in the long-suffering country. The five regional airlines that used the old airport will be joined by British British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and Kenya Airways, just to start.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

An idyllic place. Everything you wish for in a Caribbean destination. And less, without the crowds, partiers and such. Beaches rank among the best in the world, coral reefs provide diving that’s to die for, it’s care free relaxation in a setting almost too beautiful to be true. But it’s always been a bit of a schlep to get there by connecting flight. The new $250,000,000 Argyle International Airport , will come with direct flights to North American and European cities increasing capacity by at least 400%. Plus it is upgrading its port infrastructure to bring in more cruise ships whose environmental record has been somewhere between bad and wretched. The good news for would-be visitors is that the airport is behind schedule for those who would like to have the island experience before it gets paved and up go the condos.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

7. Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is a scenic, unspoiled place with coastal towns lost to time and lots of fishing spots locals love. It has been fast-tracked to the environmental critical list by a crazy ambitious $50 billion Chinese-backed project to build a canal three times the length of the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea and hence the Atlantic, in the process trampling through prized lakes, wetlands, coral reefs and any number of delicate ecosystems in Central America and the Caribbean. The Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences warns “this canal would create an environmental disaster in Nicaragua and beyond. Tourist visits have soared since the construction started.

Lake Nicaragua

6. Papua New Guinea

There is an automatic exoticism to the south Pacific and in the case of Papua New Guinea, it’s enhanced by its status as one of the last truly unexplored places on earth. The government has expressed a “wish” to maintain the rarely seen villages as the basis for its society. It’s a nice gesture, but at the same time they’re expanding the almost non-existent tourism infrastructure starting with cruise ships and with them a fading chance to experience a land not far removed from first contact.

Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com
Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com

5. The Alps, Europe

The mighty Alps are facing an uphill battle they can’t win. The evidence is incremental but unmistakable. The temperature, even on peaks over 10,000 feet has been steadily rising. The elevation at which snow falls and accumulates is falling. Towns and cities dependent on skiing for their livelihoods are taking strong measures to lower local CO2 emissions, but climate change scientists say the effects of climate change could hit hard by 2040. So maybe the problem will be solved by then, it still leaves you at least 25 years to book, but after that forget the skies and take hiking boots and sunblock.

French Alps

4. Venice, Italy

Like the famous writer Mark Twain, reports of the death of Venice have been greatly exaggerated. The magical kingdom of canals and Renaissance masterpieces has been written off many times before. But the severe flooding it has long suffered has become deeper and more chronic. When you can stop on your way to St. Mark’s and, bend down and catch fish with your bare hands, the fat lady may not be singing but is definitely warming up. The prognosis: the only people to see Venice past the 22nd century are likely scuba divers and snorkelers. However, the city has miraculously hung tough before. It may not be clear just how just yet, but surely no expense will be spared to save one of the greatest treasures on the planet.

Venice Italy Lagoons

3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Another long running natural disaster that could have been easily mitigated by sustainable practices. The fabulous reef has been assaulted not only by climate change but by human stupidity. Higher water temperatures and its older foes of pollution and acidification from ever rising carbon dioxide emissions are killing off the corals at an alarming rate. More recent threats are damage caused by the development of Australian ports to export coal to China, thereby contributing to more CO2, hence more damage to the reef and its $4 billion in tourist income. A whole new enemy has emerged as well in industrial overfishing which doesn’t directly damage reefs around the world, but destroys the fish stocks that are part of its ecosystem. The wonderful reef in Belize is facing the same threat of death by coral bleaching.

Great Barrier Reef Fish

2. Cuba

Oh the irony. According to CNN, the son of Che Guevara, the iconic Marxist guerrilla leader, has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, launching a motorcycle tour company for the biking crowd to see the island from behind their choppers. With the easing of American travel restrictions, the fabric of the island is in for rapid change for the less impoverished though not necessarily better. Not to revel in other’s poverty but the anachronism of the island frozen in a time warp by antiquated Communist central planning was part of the charm, like the famous 1950’s vintage vehicles constantly repaired and rebuilt out of economic necessity. The wonderful beaches are already popular and if there are bikers, the massive cruise ships won’t be far behind. Hemingway’s Havana is already on borrowed time.

Kamira / Shutterstock.com
Kamira / Shutterstock.com

1. Antarctica

Expect to see more headlines like this one from the BBC: “Should tourists be banned from Antarctica?” It’s feared that Antarctica is shedding up to 160 billion tons of ice annually and rising. The biggest threat to the ice cap is warming temperatures, not humans. Less than 40,000 people visit every year and only a quarter of them actually go ashore. Tour companies abide by strict international guidelines to limit human impact but those guidelines are voluntary. That human impact may be minimal, but any additional pressure on an increasingly vulnerable ecosystem is critical. There will be many more calls for restrictions to follow the BBC’s warnings. It won’t disappear in a century but trips to see it may be extinct long before.

Antarctica

15 Amazing Libraries for Literature Lovers

Libraries are those unique cultural institutions that combine art, history and innovation to create a space for people of all ages and backgrounds to indulge in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration of literature. For book lovers, there are few things that compare to wandering amid stacks of a historically or culturally significant building and finding a rare volume of their favorite author or an ancient text pertinent to human history. Luckily, the major libraries of the world that house such exquisite collections work hard to keep them preserved and accessible to the public, and out of the hundreds of worldwide options, we’ve narrowed down the 15 institutions all literature lovers must visit at least once in their lives.

15. Royal Grammar School Chained Library, Guildford, England

The headmaster’s study in Guilford’s Royal Grammar School is home to one extremely unique feature—an original chained library. The custom of chaining books originated with the idea of providing public access to valuable and important texts by affixing them to shelving in public places, an idea that eventually became the predecessor for the modern library system. This particular one in Guildford, England is one of the last remaining chained libraries in the world and houses a collection with works dating back to the 15th century, and most notably, two early editions of Newton’s Principia.

Royal Grammar School
Photo by: The Despectacled Librarian

14. Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria

As the country’s largest library, the Austrian National Library is found within Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses upwards of 7.4 million items. The acquisition of holdings dates back to the Middle Ages, with the permanent home at the Hofburg Palace constructed in the early 18th century, and now containing the largest collection of contemporary literature and research materials in Austria, as well as several unique collections, archives and museums. The most notable of these is the collection of Maps, one of the most comprehensive in the world, which today includes 295,000 maps, 45,000 geographic-topographic views, 700 globes and over 80,000 atlases and books of a technical nature. Also impressive is the library’s holding of manuscripts and rare books, a collection comprised of over 500,000 printed materials organized into incunabula (pre-1500s), works from the 16th to 19th centuries and items of rare, valuable and bibliophilic importance.

Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com
Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com

13. Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, Toronto, Canada

This library houses the University of Toronto’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, the acquisition of which started in 1955 under the direction of Chief Librarian Robert H. Blackburn (largely sourced from the University’s main library). The department didn’t have a permanent home until 1973 when Thomas Fisher’s descendants donated their personal collections of Shakespeare and various 20th century writers, accentuating the growing collection’s need for a designated space. The building is now home to Canada’s largest publicly accessible selection of rare books and manuscripts, consisting of over 700,000 volumes including several medieval manuscripts and a set of Pyne’s Royal Residences which was presented to the University by Queen Victoria.

Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

12. Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Located at the University of Dublin, the Trinity College Library holds Ireland’s largest collection of literature and is home to one of the country’s  biggest attractions—the incomparable Long Room. Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room measures over 65 meters in length and contains the institution’s 200,000 item collection of rare and early edition manuscripts and novels, including the world-famous Book of Kells  and one of the last surviving copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Also interesting to see are the marble busts of famous writers and philosophers that adorn the room, the highlight of which seems to be the one of Jonathan Swift created by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com
VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com

11. Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Brazil’s Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura, known in English as the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, must be visited as much for its unbelievably stunning interior as for its extensive literary collection. Housing the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal itself, the library was built from 1880 to 1887 in the Neo-Manueline style (Portuguese answer to Neo-Gothic architecture) designed by lead architect Rafael da Silva e Castro. Today, the library houses over 350,000 rare volumes spread over three levels, topped with a wrought iron chandelier and stained-glass skylight, making it a must see for anyone who appreciates both literature and 19th century architecture.

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

10. Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Connecticut, United States

Currently closed for renovation (it will reopen in September 2016) the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University houses one of the world’s largest rare book and manuscript collections. Completed in 1963, the building’s geometric architecture and innovative translucent marble “windows” allow a unique method of filtered lighting to illuminate the interior of the building while protecting its precious contents—thousands of rare manuscripts, papyri and early edition novels. The library is also home to various other literary collections acquired by the University, as well as several temporary and permanent exhibits; amid these treasured displays you can find an early printing of the Gutenberg Bible and Audubon’s Birds of America.

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

9. St. Catherine’s Monastery Library, South Sinai, Egypt

This Greek Orthodox Monastery, officially known as The Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, and unofficially as Santa Katarina, is the oldest inhabited monastery in the world with origins predating the Middle Ages. Though it is worth the visit just to admire and stand in a structure that has witnessed 17 centuries of history, exploring the monastery’s cultural inheritance is a truly unique experience. Housing an extensive collection of Christian art, the site is also home to a library of over 16,000 ancient texts, including hand-written manuscripts on papyrus and scrolls, early printed books and an archive of ancient documents. While the majority of the works found here are written in Greek and are religious in nature, the library also houses a number of educational works such as lexicons, medical texts and travel accounts. Most notable holdings include several pages of the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century manuscript of the Holy Scriptures) and especially of interest for classical literature lovers, first editions of Homer, Plato and the Comedies of Aristophanes.

Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr
Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr

8. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, United States

Planned, funded and brought into being by Henry and Emily Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library currently holds the world’s largest collection of William Shakespeare’s work, and is a must see for anyone who is a fan of Renaissance literature. Up until the building’s opening in 1932, the Folgers worked tirelessly to provide the American people with the best possible selection of the poet’s works, and personally took on all of the responsibilities involved with bringing their dream to life, including acquisitions, location scouting and structural planning. Today, the couple’s gift continues to expand, and now (in addition to the Shakespeare) houses an impressive collection of other Renaissance books, manuscripts and art, as well as being home to a world class research facility and numerous public outreach programs.

Photo by:  NCinDC via Flickr
Photo by: NCinDC via Flickr

7. Alexandria Library, Alexandria, Egypt

Opened in 2002, this new Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s northern coast is committed to replicating the ancient versions legacy as a universal center for culture and learning. While this was originally regarded by many as an impossible task, the library has managed it, becoming a hub in Alexandria not only for literature, but for performances, art, and special events. A stunning example of modern architecture, the library complex consists of a main reading room (which has the capacity to shelve eight million volumes) and four smaller libraries—a children’s library, youth’s library, multimedia library and braille library. Also on the premises are a planetarium and several museums that exhibit everything from ancient artefacts to antiquarian texts, including a copy of the only known scroll that remains from the city’s ancient library.

RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com
RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com

6. National Library of St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy

This beautiful library in Venice’s Piazza San Marco was constructed in the mid 1500’s after Cardinal Bessarion 1468 literary donation demanded a designated library building. The two level structure, officially called the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana was designed by Jacopo Sansovino and features Doric-style arches on the ground floor and Ionic friezes and sculptures on the second, as well as decorative artworks by Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, among other. The library is also among the oldest in the country and houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of classical literature and historic works. With holdings that comprise upwards of a million total items, among the library’s most treasured pieces are two manuscripts of the Iliad (5th and 6th century) and opera scores and sonatas by Francesco Cavalli and Domenico Scarlatti, respectively.

Photo by:  Iain Cameron via Flickr
Photo by: Iain Cameron via Flickr

5. Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia

With a history dating back to 1862, The Russian State Library is the country’s national library and houses the 5th largest literary collection in the world, containing over 17.5 million books. The institution also holds a renowned collection of maps, as well an extensive amount of specialized items such as journals, sheet music, sound recordings and dissertations. While obviously home to the largest selection of Russian literature in the world, the library also houses foreign works represented in over 247 languages, which comprise approximately 30 percent of the building’s 43 million item collection. The building itself is also an interesting site, with construction more or less completed by 1945, it is a perfect example of Soviet Neo-Classical architecture and offers an insightful contrast to other libraries of this magnitude.

Russian State Library

4. New York Public Library, New York City, United States

Not only is the New York Public Library a city landmark and popular tourist attraction, it is also an extremely important part of the worldwide literary family. With a collection of over 53 million items, the library is the 4th largest in the world, drawing around 18 million annual visitors. Originally founded in 1895, today’s main branch at Bryant Park was opened in 1911 with over one million volumes consolidated from the Astor and Lenox Libraries. The institution has since expanded to include 88 neighborhood branches and four resource centers, servicing approximately 17 million people and offering over 67,000 free programs yearly. Visitors to the main branch, located in Manhattan`s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, can admire the beauty of the building’s Beaux-Arts architecture and interiors and explore the collections in the General Research, Manuscripts and Archives, History and Genealogy and Rare Books Divisions (among others). This building is also home to some of the country’s most significant historic documents, including Columbus’s letter about the New World (1943) and George Washington’s original Farewell Address.

Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr
Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr

3. Vatican Library, Vatican City

Among the many culturally significant things to see in Vatican City, the Vatican Library is no exception. Officially established in 1448 (though acquisition began much earlier) in the Vatican Palace, the current collection tops 1.1 million items and includes ancient manuscripts, codices, classical Greek and Latin texts, and perhaps the most impressive selection of incunabula (text printed in Europe prior to 1501) in the world. Though holding a vast amount of religious texts, the library’s holdings are actually extremely diverse in scope, with notable pieces ranging from the oldest known Bible (Codex Vaticanus) to letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.

Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr
Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr

2. Library of Congress, Washington DC, United States

Established in 1800, with the doors of the current building opening to the public in 1897, The Library of Congress in Washington DC is the 2nd largest library in the world, housing upwards of 158 million items. Now a national monument, the building is one of the world’s foremost research centers home to 36 million printed materials in over 460 languages as well as over 69 million manuscripts. It is also here that you will find the world’s largest selection of films, sound recordings, sheet music and maps, in addition to the most extensive holdings of rare books on the continent. Along with this amazing collection of literature, the building itself is also worth the tour, showcasing magnificent Beaux-Arts architecture with interiors and reading rooms featuring fine art, marble halls, carved hardwood, and of course, the incomparable central stained-glass dome.

Photo by: m01229 via Flickr
Photo by: m01229 via Flickr

1. The British Library, London, England

This jaw-dropping institution contains an astounding 625 km of shelving to house its 170 million+ item collection which includes over 300,000 original manuscripts (both ancient and contemporary) and 60 million patents. With figures such as these, it is no wonder that the British Library is the largest in the world, and attract over 16,000 daily visitors. The main building, located in St. Pancras in London, is England’s largest public building constructed in the 20th century and consists of over 112,000 square meters spread over 14 floors. Along with the unparalleled collection of books, maps, newspapers and musical scores, the library is home to one of the world’s most comprehensive selections of literary treasures, including the Magna Carta, The Times first edition and the audio recording of Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech.

Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr
Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr

The 10 Best Scuba Diving Locations in the World

There is no better way to explore the underwater world of marine animals, shipwrecks, fascinating coral towers, limestone formations and schools of colorful fish than scuba diving. Whether you are a beginner or an expert with decades of experience, the amazing underwater world you can discover around the planet is absolutely mind-blowing. From hammerhead sharks to manta rays to ancient cenotes; these 10 locations around the world are the best of the best.

10. Cozumel, Mexico

Divers will certainly have their choice of dive operators on this island as there are more than 100 offering everything from deep dives, wreck dives, night dives, and underwater photography dives. This world-class diving site offers everything from swim throughs to tunnels to walls of coral to cenotes to sharks to rays. It is best to dive here in the summer when the water temperature is warmer and the hotel prices are cheaper. Cozumel is also known for its incredible visibility and deep dives. Divers can expect up to 100 feet of visibility. There are plenty of dives both for the beginner and advanced but visitors should be aware that the current can be especially strong in some sites and diving experience is recommend for these. With the 600-mile long Maya Reef that stretches from Cozumel to Central America, and boasts an abundance of colorful fish and coral, it is easy to see why Cozumel is a premier diving spot.

Cozumel, Mexico

9. Hawaii, U.S.A

This Pacific paradise attracts divers from all over the world, both beginners and experienced. The remoteness of Hawaii means fewer fish species than waters like the Caribbean, but offers the chance to discover marine life found nowhere else on earth. One of the most popular dives in the world occurs off the island of Kona, the manta ray night dive. Divers descend into the darkness while giant manta rays swim overhead, most describe it is as truly magical. Diving off Lana’I is popular amongst those looking to discover new fish and rare invertebrates while Moloka’i offers divers the chance to catch a glimpse of the rare Hawaiian monk seal and hammerhead sharks. Kaua’i is home to an abundance of collapsed lava tubes and huge green sea turtles that aren’t afraid to get their pictures taken. Divers who are in the water from December to April may be able to hear the song of the humpback whales as they migrate through these waters.

Kauai Sea Turtle

8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is so large that one can actually see it from space and has been known over the years for being one of the world’s most premier diving spots. It stretches 1,430 miles along Australia’s northeastern coast and offers over 4,000 separate reefs, cays and islands. It could truly take more than a lifetime to explore this entire reef which features over 1,500 species of fish and shipwrecks. It is the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef system that teams with biodiversity and an array of species you won’t find anywhere else. Divers here will come face to face with large sea turtles, reef sharks, sea snakes, barracudas and dolphins. The size and variety of this reef makes it perfect for any type of diver and visitors won’t be hard pressed to find an operator in one of the many seaside towns.

Great Barrier Reef

7. The French Polynesian Islands

It has long been known as a destination for honeymooners and other species of lovebirds, but besides the gorgeous white sand beaches over the water bungalows and framed palm trees lays a world to discover under the water. There are over 118 islands and atolls throughout this vast area and with 11 of them offering diving centers; it is easy to be overwhelmed with choices on where to dive. Fortunately there is an array of varied dives, from the shallow lagoons for beginners to the drop-offs and passes for the advanced divers. Moorea Island is also known as ‘Shark World’ and is famous for its hand-fed shark and stingray dives. The atoll Rangiroa is also known for both its calm lagoon that teems with marine life and it’s thrilling passes that feature sharks, big fish species and turtles. These waters explode with colorful coral, fish, sharks and other marine species that proudly show themselves off. No matter where you dive, this promises to be unforgettable.

Diving French Polynesia

6. Roatan and The Bay Islands, Honduras

This popular diving spot has been attracting divers for decades as it feature amazing shipwrecks and endless colorful coral. It is here that the world’s second largest barrier reef is located and divers will be privy to swimming with eagle rays, schools of colorful fish and the all mighty whale sharks. Utila is where divers will head if they want to swim with these majestic creatures and it is one of the only places year round that the whale sharks can be seen. This destination is inclusive for all levels of divers and whether you are just getting your feet wet, or you have been diving for years, there is an experience here for you unlike anywhere else in the world.

Whale Sharks -Honduras

5. Malaysia

It is blessed with some of the richest waters and diving here offers experiences unlike any other in the world. Sipadan, the little island off the east coast of Borneo is what most divers come to experience. It lies in one of the richest marine habitats in the world and boasts an extremely high number of turtles, grey and whitetip reef sharks, and large schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda and trevally. Layang-Layang is another reason to dive in these waters as this little speck of an atoll is fringed by some of the best coral fields in the world along with its huge schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Where you want to dive and what you want to see will determine the best time of year to visit these waters as different seasons bring different water conditions.

Diving in Sipadan

4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

It is where Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, a place where countless mammals, reptiles and birds thrive and its waters are some of the most pristine areas left to dive in this world. These waters work best for experienced divers as currents are strong and conditions are often choppy. The tiny Darwin Island is an excellent choice for divers as the waters are full of fur seals, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, marine iguanas and schools of sharks. Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos is home to penguins that shoot by you, sea lions, sea turtles, and a challenging underwater volcano that is swarming with Galapagos sharks, along with schools of hammerheads and barracudas. July to November is when divers choose to head here as the sharks tend to be the most active and plentiful. These waters deserve at least two weeks to explore and promise to surprise you at every twist and turn.

Diving Galapgos Islands

3. Turks and Caicos

It boasts some of the clearest water in the world and with so many islands that are uninhabited; it makes for a perfect place to escape the crowds of the Caribbean. Turks and Caicos is not only known for its brilliant turquoise water but also for its incredible wall diving. It is here you will dive into the world’s third largest coral reef system and find drops that plunge hundreds of feet into the deep. The Columbus Passage, a 35-kilometer channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands is a water highway for migrating fish, rays, turtles, dolphins and Humpback whales from January through March. With incredibly calm waters and an abundance of marine life, every dive here promises to be thrilling.

Turks and Caicos

2. Belize

Belize is most widely known for its famous dive spot the Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that descends over 400 feet. To dive the Blue Hole it is recommend that you are an experienced diver and you are well prepared for this magical experience. The Blue Hole doesn’t teem with colorful fish or coral; in fact the only marine life you might see deep in the depths of this hole is a hammerhead or reef shark. Instead you will dive into an ancient geographical phenomena complete with an array of limestone formations and bizarre stalactites. If you want colorful fish and coral, Belize offers plenty of that along the reef and is home to many species of sharks, rays, barracudas and many species of fish. Belize is known as a destination for the more adventurous divers and you will certainly benefit if you have some experience under your belt before you travel to this country.

Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com
Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com

1. The Red Sea, Egypt

For many people, Egypt is known for its incredible above the water attractions and although one should not discount the ancient monuments and pyramids, it is below the water that is the real jewel of the country. Divers here are privy to hundreds of miles of coral, millions of fish, warm water, great visibility, sheltered reefs, walls, coral gardens and wrecks. This destination is also known for having an excellent availability of instructors which makes the Red Sea a perfect spot for learning how to dive. Drift dives are quite common in the Red Sea due to currents as are night dives amongst towering coral and schools of fish. Whale sharks, moray eels, barracudas and tuna are all spotted throughout these waters. The warm water temperature year round makes diving here at anytime an unforgettable experience.

Diving Red Sea, Egypt

The World’s 12 Most Haunted Places

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there are a lot of places in the world where sometimes creepy and freaky stuff happens, things that just can’t be explained with today’s science. Maybe one day we’ll be able to explain supposedly paranormal and supernatural occurrences, but for now, such happenings only serve to fuel modern-day legends and urban myths about ghosts and angry spirits that walk this mortal plane. The belief in spirits is widespread, a global phenomenon, and as such, there are plenty of places around the world where ghosts and other ghouls are reported to hang out. Sometimes, though, whether through a combination of accumulated history or a single tragedy, a location gains a reputation for being a congregation space for residents of the other world. These 12 locations—whether due to the longevity of the legend, the number of ghosts, or the infamous nature of the ghosts—are some of the most haunted places on the face of the earth.

12. Valley of the Kings (Egypt)

Tanatat pongphibool ,thailand / Getty Images

The ancient Egyptians’ burial practices are well-known to us today and, given the advanced techniques of preservation that allowed them to make mummies, it’s little wonder that any place associated with ancient Egyptian burials is rumored to be haunted. That, coupled with the lore that surrounds the pharaohs of ancient Egypt cursing their tombs to keep their riches and ward off would-be tomb robbers, makes a place like the Valley of the Kings seem particularly spooky. The Valley of the Kings, located in the Theban Hills off the western Nile, was used as a burial site for nearly 500 years. Tombs were constructed for powerful pharaohs and other nobles. The valley is known to contain 63 tombs and chambers. That’s a lot of mummies! Up to 10,000 visitors arrive in the Valley on any given day of the week and some of them have reported seeing a vision of an Egyptian pharaoh riding a fiery chariot drawn by black horses. Many deaths have been associated with the tomb of King Tut in particular, although most people suggest the “mummy’s curse” wasn’t actually responsible for these deaths.

11. Dumas Beach (Surat, India)

Madhav Malvawala / Shutterstock

This urban beach, located along the Arabian Sea in the Gujurat state of India, has become a popular destination for tourists. Well-connected to major cities by rail, Surat is particularly known for its blend of cuisines and along the promenade of Dumas Beach, you can find vendors selling Indian and Chinese street foods. Dariya Ganesh Temple, adjacent to the beach, is a popular attraction. The beach’s black sand is also a draw. But the locals believe the beach to be haunted. That’s because Dumas Beach has long been used as a crematorium by the local Hindu population. As per Hindu tradition, rather than burying bodies, the people of Surat burn their dead on the sands of Dumas. (Kind of makes you worry about why the sand is black, doesn’t it?) Visitors say they have heard voices telling them to “go back” where they came from. Sometimes, people hear many voices, although the beach is deserted at the time. Creepy!

10. The Kremlin (Moscow, Russia)

Tanatat pongphibool ,thailand / Getty Images

The Kremlin is one of the most iconic buildings in Russia’s capital city, but this fortified complex has a reputation for being haunted, particularly by the leaders of old Soviet Russia. It’s little surprise, given the bloody legacy of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Soviet era. Today, the complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation, and the Kremlin towers and Kremlin Wall are iconic as symbols of Russia. Indeed, the Kremlin is the most famous of 5 similar citadels, and with 4 palaces and 5 cathedrals, including Saint Basil’s Cathedral, it’s not hard to see why. The Kremlin is most associated with the Soviet era, although it was first made into a fortress in the 11th century. Later eras saw the fortress expanded and rebuilt. Revitalized in the imperial period, the Kremlin was first rebuilt by Catherine the Great. Since then, it has borne witness to assassinations, murder, and intrigue, as well as the damage suffered in war. Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin made the Kremlin his headquarters after the revolution of 1917, and Stalin also had rooms there. Today, some report seeing the ghosts of Lenin and Stalin stalking the Kremlin hallways!

9. Tuen Mun Road (Hong Kong, China)

kawing921 / Shutterstock

Since 1978, this highway has recorded an astounding number of accidents, many of them fatal. While some people attribute the number of accidents to the road’s early design and heavy usage, others claim they have seen ghosts materialize on the road, causing drivers to swerve and wreck their cars. Despite this, Tuen Mun is still one of the most heavily used roads in Hong Kong. One of the first high-speed highways in Hong Kong, many of the accidents on Tuen Mun can be attributed to poor design and cost-cutting measures used in its construction. The steep terrain and winding coastline presented some serious challenges for the engineering team and the decision to use substandard geometry and narrow carriageways directly led to a number of accidents. Although improvements have been made since that time, accidents are still frequent and often terrifying, such as a 2003 incident where a bus broke through the side of a bridge and plummeted into a village 35 meters below the road, causing 21 deaths! With incidents like that, it’s little wonder that people would believe there are some vengeful ghosts on the side of the road.

8. Zvikov Castle (Czech Republic)

Jan Pasler / Shutterstock

One of the most important castles in the Czech Republic, Zvikov Castle, also known as the “king of castles,” stands on a difficult-to-access promontory where the Vltava and Otava Rivers meet. The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times and has been the scene of many bloody battles over the years. Although it was heavily fortified and often successfully defended against enemies, the castle was only important for farming after 1640 and the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War. The castle was mostly a ruin by the 1840s but was restored after its owners invested huge sums in reconstruction. Today, the castle is open as an attraction to hikers from spring until autumn and hosts art exhibitions and plays. The castle has its own ghost, Zvikov’s imp, who has inspired writers and painters. The imp is said to inhabit the ancient tower Markomanka, which has strange engravings dating back to the 1st century AD. Fire hounds are also said to guard an underground tunnel, and visitors frequently report technical issues, weird photos, and ghosts, among other odd events. It is also said that anyone who sleeps in the main tower will die within a year.

7. Aokigahara (Japan)

Aberu.Go / Shutterstock

Quick, name the most haunted place in Japan! If you guessed a forest at the base of Mount Fuji, you’d be right! Although Mt. Fuji is considered a sacred place, the forest located at the foot of the mountain, Aokigahara, has gained a rather unsavory reputation. In 1960, the novel Kuroi Jukai (Black Sea of Trees) was published and made the site a popular destination for those who wanted to commit suicide. In fact, it is the most commonplace in Japan to commit suicide and one of the most popular destinations in the world. In 2010, 247 people attempted suicide in the forest (54 were successful). Suicide attempts are said to peak in March, at the end of the Japanese fiscal year. Aokighara’s reputation goes back further, however; in the 19th century, it may have been used for ubasute, the practice of abandoning an elderly or infirm person to die in a remote location. The forest is reputedly haunted by the angry spirits of those who were left to perish. Aokighara is exceptionally quiet due to a lack of animal life and the density of the trees, which may be one of the reasons people think this forest is so eerie.

6. Baguio City (Philippines)

Gilbert Rondilla Photography / Getty Images

Baguio City in the Philippines isn’t home to just 1 or 2 haunted houses; it’s home to a whole swath of reportedly haunted areas and pretty much the entire city is considered to be haunted. With a history that’s full of trauma and tragedy, it’s little wonder that there are so many specters in the city. Baguio was occupied by the Japanese during World War II and a number of places, including the Laperal White House and the Diplomat Hotel, were sites of horrific crimes and grisly deaths, fueling rumors that ghosts now haunt these places. The 1990 Luzon earthquake did extensive damage to many of the old buildings in the city and several of them collapsed, killing people trapped inside. Many of these sites are now haunted by the spirits of those who died in the disaster. Other haunted sites include the Teachers’ Camp and the Military Academy, and many other places, including cemeteries and old hotels and houses, are also supposed to be haunted. If you want to meet a ghost, Baguio is your destination!

5. Cinco Saltos (Argentina)

Aleksandra H. Kossowska / Shutterstock

Also known as the City of Witches, Cinco Saltos in the Rio Negro province of Argentina is infamous for being haunted. It has been inhabited for only about 100 years, but it has earned its reputation because of the frequency of witchcraft reports. Bajo Negro, a place where no sunlight reaches, is where witchcraft is supposedly carried out. Some people have reported seeing people dressed in black robes performing rituals there, but no photos of the site exist. Other paranormal occurrences, such as UFO sightings, are reported in the area as well. In 2009, the intact corpse of a young girl was found in an ossuary in one of the local cemeteries. She had died sometime in the 1930s and never been buried, but simply placed into the box and stored. Soon after, rumors of a ghost haunting the cemetery spread through the city. Nearby Pellegrini Lake is another site for supernatural spooks and ghouls. One story claims that an infant drowned in the lake over 50 years ago and can still be found haunting the shores of the lake, seeking comfort from those unfortunate enough to cross its path.

4. Ararat Lunatic Asylum (Victoria, Australia)

Nils Versemann / Shutterstock

Also known as Aradale, the Ararat Lunatic Asylum is the largest abandoned asylum in Australia. Opened in 1867, it was the destination for those mental patients deemed “incurable” in the late 19th century—and it was often their final destination. The asylum continued to operate until 1998 when it was finally closed. Today, it has been incorporated into the local campus of the Australian College of Wine. The asylum was built to accommodate the growing number of “lunatics” during Australia’s colonial years. Although the building was not officially opened until 1867, the patient list extends back to 1865, and 2 sister asylums were built nearby. Over the nearly 2 and a half centuries of operation, it’s estimated that close to 13,000 people met their maker at Aradale. Ghost tours operate frequently and take visitors through many parts of the original complex, including the administration, chapel, kitchen, wards, and the morgue. You know, just in case a former asylum wasn’t creepy enough.

3. The Empress Hotel (British Columbia, Canada)

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One of the oldest and most famous hotels in Canada, the Fairmont Empress Hotel, commonly known as the Empress, is also one of the most famously haunted buildings in the country. Located in Victoria, BC, the hotel is a National Historic Site of Canada. Built between 1904 and 1908, the hotel has been witness to a number of historic events and often graced with the presence of British royalty and American celebrities. The hotel is also home to several ghosts. One is a thin man with a mustache and a cane, thought to be Francis Rattenbury, the hotel’s architect. On the 6th floor, an apparitional maid can sometimes be seen cleaning, bringing new meaning to the phrase “working to death.” Another specter is an elderly woman who reportedly goes about knocking on the doors of guests. She claims to need help finding her room. If one agrees to help her, she leads them toward the elevators, where she disappears. Another grisly tale relates to a worker who hanged himself in an elevator shaft in the early 1960s; a shadow of a body swinging from above is sometimes reported by guests. No matter what, the Empress hotel sure has some interesting guests!

2. Baskerville Hall (UK)

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You know a place is probably haunted when it ends up as a central location in a Sherlock Holmes novel. That’s precisely what happened to Baskerville Hall, located in Powys, Wales. The building, which is an enormous mansion, was first built in 1839 and quickly gained a reputation as being a popular haunt for some pretty ghastly visitors. The Hall is most famously haunted by the White Lady and the supposed hell hounds made famous in Conan Doyle’s novel, but there are allegedly many other spirits out and about as well. Another source of inspiration for Conan Doyle’s tale included the story of a wicked squire who, when buried in 1677, was said to lead a pack of phantom dogs to the hunt. Although Conan Doyle set his novel in Devon at the request of friends, in hopes of warding off tourists, the Hall today is a hotel ready to be explored. You might be greeted by a male apparition on the grand staircase, or you might encounter the White Lady in the rose garden. Like other guests, you might hear footsteps in the corridors or banging noises with no source.

1. Witch House (Massachusetts, USA)

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You can’t get through a “most haunted” list without invoking one of the most infamous cases in U.S. history, the Salem Witch Trials. Between February 1692 and May 1693, 20 people, mostly women, were hanged after being convicted of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts. The Witch House, also known as Jonathan Corwin House, is the last standing building with direct ties to the trials. The house was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who was called upon to preside over the trials after the execution of Bridgette Bishop and the resignation of Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall. Corwin was involved in sending 19 of the 20 victims to the gallows. While no interrogations or trial proceedings were conducted in the house itself, the building is still rumored to be haunted by the spirits of those who were sentenced to death by Corwin and his colleagues. The house serves as a museum, open seasonally, and was featured in an episode of the TV series Ghost Adventures. Two other Salem buildings, the Joshua Ward House and the Lyceum Restaurant are said to be haunted by spirits of people involved with the witch trials.

8 Best Travel Destinations to Improve Your Health

Traveling and vacationing has been taken to a new level with the explosion of focus on health and wellness. People are traveling to destinations specifically to improve their physical, mental and spiritual health. Today’s travelers now want places that offer more than just a white sand beach and endless cocktails; they want experiences that stick with them for life. From the birthplace of yoga to the palm-fringed beaches of St. Lucia to a small town in Egypt known for its therapeutic centers to the state that created the first fitness and spa resort in North America; we have rounded up the best travel destinations to explore to improve your health and wellbeing.

8. Sedona, Arizona

The red rocks of Sedona Arizona are said to be the center of vortexes that radiate earth’s powers and millions of visitors flock here for a spiritual awakening. Thought to be the center of the New Age movement Sedona is the perfect place to visit for those seeking spiritual healing, meditation and self-exploration. Surrounded by psychics, life coaches, Reiki masters, massage therapists and spiritual counselor’s one will feel embraced, inspired and rejuvenated.

Sedona’s year round scenic beauty combined with a town filled with art galleries, gourmet restaurants and spa’s designed to pamper guests is inviting to visitors all over the world. Along with jeep tours throughout the rocks, yoga after a long hike and meditation in rooms where you can burn your worries away; Sedona is full of luxury hotels. This city is truly meant to cleanse your soul and body and is a haven for any visitors looking to improve their spiritual and physical health.

Sedona, Arizona meditation

7. San Benito, Philippines

Our next destination to improve your health takes you to the Philippines; specifically a place called “The Farm” located in San Benito. This internationally acclaimed health resort offers the choice of a wellness holiday, detox cleanses or healing retreat. The focus of The Farm is to create an atmosphere that allows your mind and body to cleanse itself of toxins and worries. The beautiful landscape, the peacocks that roam free, the luxurious villas, the majestic gardens and the exquisite pools make it easy to relax and heal your soul and body.

The Farm focuses on serving delicious natural vegan and raw food that is devoid of any added substances or toxins that may exist in your everyday diets. They advise guests on nutritional therapy and holistic health along with helping visitors to plan out a fitness schedule. Guests to The Farm will participate in yoga, meditation, food preparation, massages, aqua therapy, power walks, body wraps and scrubs and so much more. Meditation lounges, pavilions and pools are available to all guests at all times. The Farm is truly a place for the individual who is looking to improve their health and well being and is the perfect travel destination to do just that.

Photo by: The Farm San Benito
Photo by: The Farm San Benito

6. Thailand

From yoga retreats to sleep wellness programs to holistic therapies to detox treatments, Thailand offers up amazing opportunities to improve your health. Not to mention the culture, history, amazing temples and spectacular beaches that await you here. Friendly and loving, the Thai have a way of welcoming visitors and making their spirits feel uplifted and invigorated once arriving and staying this way long after leaving.

Ancient therapies such as herbal steam caverns, traditional Thai massages and acupuncture await guests to this country. The abundance of fresh fruit and locally grown food makes this the perfect place to rid your body of toxins and fill it with incredible flavors and natural goodness. The stunning beachfront resorts offer rooms dedicated to treatments, meditation, yoga, saunas and every other healing experience you can think of. Thailand is also the perfect destination to work on your physical health with plenty of boot camps and weight training programs. However you seek to improve yourself, Thailand is the perfect spot to do so.

Thailand massage

5. Dahab Egypt

Located directly on the Red Sea in Egypt lies a small friendly hippie-like town called Dahab. The golden sand beaches for which it is named for, the attractive hotels and fascinating diving spots are just a fraction of what makes this town so fabulous. In terms of improving your health this town offers no shortage of opportunities. From sacred meditation camps to its famous therapeutic centers; visitors come from all over the world to be “healed”.

Desert meditation, underwater yoga and traditional Turkish baths can be found here along with a way of life that is smoother and more laid back. Visitors will want to visit the Radiant Rainbow Reiki Room; a meeting place off the beaten path for all who want to look deeper within themselves through Reiki, tarot, meditation, massage and more.  Head up to the summit of Mount Sinai and do yoga or trek into the desert on a full moon yoga retreat; there is certainly no lack of companies and hotels that offer up this ever popular activity. Rejuvenate your mind and body in a town that encourages visitors to take a break and get healthy; all while experiencing amazing diving opportunities, glorious beaches and healing centers.

Dahab Egypt Restaurant

4. California

The playground for all things health and wellness related including physical, mental and spiritual health is how many people view the state of California. We couldn’t leave this state off our list or even begin to narrow down which cities were the best pick because the whole state truly has something to offer in terms of improving ones health. Home to the first fitness and spa resort in North America, California is big on helping visitors achieve a healthier lifestyle. With boot camps, weight-loss programs, cooking classes, personal training sessions and spa treatments; guests can be sure to improve their physical health here.

Physical health is not the only type of health that can be worked on in this state however. Many resorts and retreats are focusing their efforts on working with visitors to improve their spiritual wellbeing as well. From silent retreats where guests are encouraged to remain silent, meditate and become one with nature, to hot springs with natural healing powers, red clay and massages on site; California is the perfect destination to improve your health; both physically, mentally and spiritually.

California hot springs

3. Sri Lanka

Amazing culture, beautiful temples, and the opportunity for meditation, yoga and a spiritual awakening awaits you in the beautiful island country. Experience the true natural Ayurveda; the traditional medicinal treatment that has been practiced for centuries and aims to rejuvenate the body. Sri Lanka also offers visitors the chance to experience the original yoga techniques that have been practiced by the Sri Lanka local people for centuries.

One of the most popular ways to discover oneself in Sri Lanka is to join a meditation, yoga or spiritual tour. Many of these tours involve Buddhist monks introducing you to the power of meditation in the tranquil settings of a monastery. Experienced yoga specialists will guide you through lessons and introduce you to new forms you may have never heard of. Become one with nature as you appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Treatment centers offer massages, facials, steam baths and many more healthy revitalizing treatments. Relaxation, self-improvements and an emphasis on meditation and yoga awaits you in this country island full of surprises.

Sri Lanka Meditation

2. St. Lucia

Palm-fringed beaches, lush tropical rain forests, towering mountains, natural waterfalls and breath-taking views set the stage for an amazing destination to improve your health in St. Lucia. Whether visitors are looking to improve their physical or mental health; this island is the perfect place to drop your bags and stay awhile.

One of the most popular resorts on the island for improving health and fitness is TheBodyHoliday at LeSPORT. This all-inclusive resort strives to provide guests with relaxation, restorative beauty, exercise and good diet. Group exercise classes ranging from Zumba to tai chi to combat fitness take place on a daily basis and miles of hiking and cycling trails run throughout the resort. Daily yoga sessions, aloe vera body wraps and spa treatments round out your days. Dine on authentic local calorie-conscious cuisine at one of four restaurants on site. Other resorts in St. Lucia offer many physical activities to keep you working hard along with meditation and spiritual opportunities and this is one Island that should be on your list to travel to if you are looking to improve your health.

St. Lucia Resort

1. India

We can’t possibly forget about India; the birthplace of yoga over 26,000 years ago during the Golden Age, a time of everlasting peace and abundant blessings filled with seekers of the Eternal Truth. India is the true haven and destination for any traveler that seeks to improve their mental and spiritual health and has welcomed visitors from all over the world for centuries. So much of India is devoted to meditation retreats, spiritual centers, and yoga retreats that it can be difficult to pin down which city to visit. Our best suggestion is to research what type of meditation, yoga or spiritual awakening you are after and let your senses lead you.

You can expect serene yoga pavilions, Zen gardens and hilltop retreats to be waiting for you in India. One on one meditation sessions, communal vegetarian dinners and solitary sunbathing are some of the highlights of many of these places, along with exceptional spa treatments and Buddhist teachings.  From the famous Ananda in the Himalayas; a 100-acre estate in the foothills of the Himalayas to the very remote Blue Mango high up in the Himalayas; you can find the perfect experience to suit your needs. Experience the birthplace of yoga and discover a destination where you will leave feeling refreshed and one with yourself.

Yoga India

The 7 Safest Places to Travel in the Middle East

Beautiful mountain ranges, untouched beauty, warm waters and some of the oldest history in the world makes the Middle East a perfect place to visit. Unfortunately finding a safe place to explore here is often compared to finding a needle in a haystack. With political unrest, terrorism and travel advisories; travelers are often avoiding this beautiful part of the world but as you will soon discover; you don’t have to stay away. We have dug deep to find you the seven safest places to visit in the Middle East. From temples to tombs, from The Dead Sea to lush mountain tops to the tallest structure in the world; these Middle Eastern destinations have something for everyone to enjoy. Although these destinations are safe at the time of writing, we highly suggest doing your research and keeping up to date with the information on any place you are planning to visit.

7. The Nile, Egypt

With all the political unrest in Egypt over the past year it was just as surprising to us that Egypt has made our list! When we dove deeper into the safety of Egypt we discovered that there are not only safe places to visit; but now may be the best time to go. From the un-crowded pyramids of Giza to the tourist empty Valley of The Kings; travelling along the Nile is a safe and plentiful option for travel right now. We do recommend sticking to cities such as Luxor and Aswan if you are going to travel alone without a guided tour. If you are going to see the Pyramids of Giza a cruise of the Nile with a guide is our best suggestion.

Dan Breckwoldt / Shutterstock.com
Dan Breckwoldt / Shutterstock.com

6. Northern Israel

Please take note that we mention NORTHERN Israel above, not Southern Israel. With all the conflict happening in this country one might be surprised to find it on our list but we are confident in telling you that the Northern part of this region is still a safe Middle Eastern Destination. We recommend visiting regions such as Galilee; a mountainous region in the north that is famous for its wine country, national parks and Jewish and Christian Holy Sites. Set some time aside to explore the city of Nazareth. From the historic churches to the local market to the ancient bath houses; this city is filled with amazing things to discover. As with all of these destinations, do your research beforehand and understand local customs and dress codes.

Nazareth

5. Cyprus

Home to more than two million visitors a year, Cyprus is known as a relatively safe place to travel; and therefore puts this island on the list. Couple those facts with the sizzling sun, spectacular coastlines and top quality mountain treks and you have your next vacation destination. We suggest going out of your “comfort zone” and exploring this island rather than sticking to the popular tourist towns such as Pafos and Agia Napa. The north coast boasts some of the best golden beaches around as well as ruins of medieval castles that will bring forth the fairytale daydream in all of us. A bathing suit, a pair of hiking boots and some sunscreen will go a long way in helping you explore this beautiful land.

Cyprus

4. Qatar

Scheduled to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup; Qatar is slowly but surely becoming noticeable as a tourist destination. Surrounded by the sea and being a safe Middle Eastern Country to visit makes this country number four on our list. For a western approach on water sports make sure to try kite-surfing, or take a page from the locals and jet-ski right next to the beaches. Visit the Museum of Islamic Art, the cultural village of Katara and Souq Waqif; the traditional marketplace of Qatar. Don’t miss the chance to watch the traditional sport of the sheiks, known to us as camel racing. Head over to Qatar’s popular camel racetrack where this expensive sport continues even today.

Qatar at night

3. Oman

Up until recently Oman has been virtually unknown in the tourist world. In recent years however Oman has invested heavily in tourism and it shows. An absolute must is watching the hundreds of green sea turtles come up to nest on one of Oman’s beaches (the best time for this is September to November). The Historic village of Nizwa is home to one of Oman’s mightiest forts and here you will find plenty of Souks selling everything you desire. A visit to Oman would not be complete without a cruise through Khor Ash Sham; a 16km inlet where you are treated to remote hamlets along the shoreline and pods of dolphins throughout. Explore the towering mountain range, sleep in the dessert and enjoy the remote country of Oman.

Muscat, Oman

2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

It should be no surprise that Dubai makes this list due to its modernity, richness and high security.  For those looking for a modern Dubai experience don’t miss out on the world’s tallest structure; Burj Khalifa which stands 828 metres and 160 floors tall. The dancing Dubai Fountain will knock your socks off in their nightly show, which can accessed through the Dubai Mall; just in case you have some shopping to do first. For the history buff; Dubai Museum is a great place to start where modern technology meets history in an underground fort that shows the fascinating transition from village to modern empire that the Emirate is today. The Markets or Souks as they are called are worth a visit and can be found on both sides of the Dubai Creek.

Sophie James / Shutterstock.com
Sophie James / Shutterstock.com

1. Jordan

Our number one pick for the safest place to visit in the Middle East is Jordan. Despite its close proximity to places with recent war; Jordan’s security is first class. Avoiding the area closest to Syria and Iraq (3km within both borders) is recommended but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Jordan. Make sure to visit Petra, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World where the breathtaking ruins will have you in awe. Float in the Dead Sea, dive in the warm waters at Aqaba or relax in the natural hot springs underneath a waterfall. To make you feel even more at ease in this wonderful country; most people in Jordan speak English. Don’t be afraid; be enthralled.

Petra Jordan