Bucket List Trips Worth Saving For

Travelling can be very pricey but so incredible. Sometimes places are expensive just because of the hype that surrounds in with celebrity travel, media or even just Pinterest. But what places are truly worth saving up for? Don’t get sucked into the trendy travel locations, save up for a trip that will make you check some items off your bucket list and continue to be enriched with valuable life experience.

1. French Polynesia

Ready for the trip of a lifetime? It’s pretty pricey but worth every penny. The French Polynesia has so many islands of beauty to offer including Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Ra’iatea and Taha’a, Tuamotus, and last but not least, Marquesas. Know for their uber relaxing spas and stunning black pearls, you’ll be ready to live there permanently by the end of your trip. The best time of year to travel is between May and September to avoid rainy season.

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2. Fiji

Find your place in the middle of no where. With friendly locals and a historically rich landscape, this island won’t disappoint. Snorkel, dive and zipline through the islands’ stunning surroundings to have an unforgettable experience that you will reminisce about for years to come.

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3. Paris

Bienvenue to the City of Love! You need to see this destination at least once in your lifetime to understand what the hype is all about. Stroll through the streets of Paris, visiting historical landmarks and eating incredible food. Oh, and don’t forget about the delicious wine at every meal.

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4. Hawaii

Make the flight to this tropical paradise that is covered in stunning cliffs, volcanoes, jungles, canyons and just about everything in between. With multiple islands, there’s no shortage of things to do and see on your bucket list trip. Snorkel with the friendly wildlife in the ocean, learn to surf and hike some risky trails with jaw dropping views. You won’t get photos like this anywhere else in the world! Hawaii is truly a traveller’s paradise.

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5. Iceland

You will definitely want to save up for this amazing destination. It’s everything you hope it to be and so much more! Go to the Blue Lagoon and swim in the bright blue hot springs, then hop in a car and camp anywhere on the island. That’s right, you can camp anywhere in Iceland! If you are the adventurous type, this trip is definitely for you. You can whale watch and visit some incredible geysers that make stunning photos. Last but not least, go visit the countless waterfalls that are scattered over this heart stopping landscape. Needless to say, it’s a perfect vacation.

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6. Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Looking for a peaceful, rejuvenating getaway with first class treatment? To describe the beauty of this location leaves me at a loss for words (very uncommon). Having been there, all that can be said is that the fresh air and beautiful scenery is a sight for sore eyes and the perfect way to wake up every morning.

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7. Australia

Take a long trip down under and explore every inch of this incredible country. With hot weather, the world famous Great Barrier Reef and the 12 Apostles, you’d think that would be enough! But guess what? You can visit Kangaroo Island to see the country’s most popular animal roam freely. The cost is steep but the experience definitely worth it. Head down to Australia!

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Over The Top All-Inclusive Vacation Amenities

All-inclusive vacations are undeniably easy; all you have to do is show up and every need is catered to, without you having to open your wallet. Typical amenities include endless buffets and drinks but it can indeed go beyond that. Follow along as we explore 10 over the top all-inclusive amenities you don’t want to miss!

10. Fireplace Butler, New Mexico

Having a fireplace in your hotel room is one of the most romantic touches, but lighting that fire and getting it to stay lit can quickly kill the mood. Luckily for the guests at the Four Seasons Resort Ranch Encantado in Santa Fe New Mexico, there is a fireplace butler. All guests need to do is request a visit from this expert and your butler will arrive at your door dressed in outdoor gear and a red flannel hat, making sure he looks the part. The fireplace butler will go on to light the fire for you and serve you hot chocolate or steaming apple cider in charming camping mugs. And you thought you had heard of every kind of butler.

Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe
Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe

9. Complimentary Porsche, California

If you feel like going for one heck of a joy ride, make sure to head over to Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in California where you can take out a Porsche for the cost of nothing. Through an exclusive partnership, the resort is able to offer guests a complimentary vehicle for the day. The concierges are well versed in suggesting where to take this powerful car and feel free to keep it until the evening. For those high rollers who actually fall in love with the car, there is a Porsche certified concierge on site to speak with about taking one of these bad boys home. Whether you’ve got the kids, want the convertible or just need an excuse to test one out, this resort has you covered.

Photo by: Rancho Valencia
Photo by: Rancho Valencia

8. Extensive Rare Book Collection, Kenya

For any book lover out there, the chance to see an extensive manuscript collection from some of the finest writers is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately there is one resort in Kenya that not only offers an incredible eco-safari adventure but also a library full of unpublished letters, diary entries and unique photographs. Guests at the Segera Retreat will discover artifacts from Charles Darwin, Theodore Roosevelt, David Livingstone, Ernest Hemingway and more. This unique conservation retreat belongs to German entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz who stocked the library full of these priceless artifacts, as well as filling the resort with his personal art collection and vintage antiques. Nightly rates start at $1,070 per person per night and include meals, drinks, retreat activities and access to these rare and priceless books.

Photo by: Segera Retreat
Photo by: Segera Retreat

7. Cirque de Soleil Experience, Club Med

Club Med and Cirque de Soleil have teamed up to bring resort goers the opportunity to fly high at their new fitness program titled Creactive. This dream-like playscape is a program where guests of all ages can try their hand at a variety of artistic and acrobatic activities. Activities include trapeze, tight rope, aerial silk, trampoline, juggling and more. There will be no jumping through hoops to sign up for this program as it is included with the room rate at Club Med in Punta Cana. This one of a kind circus experience is under the direct supervision of dedicated trainers and the activities are inspired by the 20 plus productions that take place all over the world. Dedicated to bringing circus and happiness to the world, if you have ever wanted to fly high, this is the place to do so.

Photo by: Club Med
Photo by: Club Med

6. Extensive Wine Collections, Singita, Africa

Singita is the proud operator of 12 lodges and camps, in five regions across three countries in Africa and is at the forefront of luxury safari experiences. Therefore it should come as no surprise that their wine collections are both incredible and tailored to match each and every dish. The brand’s wine collection in fact may just come in second, perhaps only to seeing the incredible wildlife in Africa. For each lodge the selection is handpicked and although every wine on the list in included in the price; one won’t go wrong trusting the daily pairings. Lodges offer the majority of their red wines at five years and older and there certainly won’t be any typically house chardonnay on the menu. Sommeliers are on hand at each lodge, not only picked for their wine knowledge but also their travel experience, personality and love for the African bush land. Guests won’t find a more incredible experience, complete with outstanding wine anywhere else in the world.

Photo by: Singita
Photo by: Singita

5. Baby/Family Concierge, World Wide

More and more all-inclusive resorts, especially smaller boutique ones are getting on board with including a baby or family concierge with the packages. These personal concierges are devoted to your family’s needs including walkie-talkies to keep in constant touch with one another, cookies and milk turn down service and specialized activities for your family. Some resorts offer play pens, bottle warmers, customized “kids” mini fridges in the rooms, cribs, change tables, baby bath robes, strollers and more. The Paradisus Resorts even offer private pools and beach areas with valet service, a VIP lounge with private check in and a bath time fun program before bed. If you are looking to have all the help you can want, make sure to check out the resorts that really offer it all in terms of childcare.

Photo by: Paradisus by Melia
Photo by: Paradisus by Melia

4. Tennis Academy, Club Med

Club Med has once again stepped up their game in terms of the amenities offered in their all-inclusive packages by offering the Club Med Tennis Academy at select resorts. Guests of all ages will have access to daily, weekly and full-time tennis programs all year round, run by top coaches. At Sandpiper Bay guests will have access to morning and/or afternoon sessions, with a focus on skills, weight training, stroke productions and match play. Players also get the chance to train with the best players and play full-length matches against one another. From kids to adults, beginners to experts, there is a tennis activity for anyone at Club Med.

Photo by: Club Med Academies
Photo by: Club Med Academies

3. Cooking Classes, Karisma Hotels and Resorts

Karisma’s all inclusive resorts are ultra luxurious and offer incredible personalized service to each and every guest. A favorite amenity of guests here are the cooking classes that are included in your holiday. The focus here is on seasonal cuisine and local produce and this educational experience is meant to teach guests about the joys of food and cooking. Guests will work together with experienced chefs to create incredible tasting dishes. At the end of each class guests are invited to enjoy the dishes they created as well as sipping on complimentary wine. If wine is more your style, be sure to check out the wine tastings that are offered by the knowledgeable sommeliers, or take an interactive tequila tasting class where you will learn the history and basics of tequila. With resorts located across Mexico, it is easy to find your perfect cooking vacation.

Photo by: Karisma Hotels
Photo by: Karisma Hotels

2. A Temporary Closet, Berlin

If you have forgotten that little black dress and you happen to be at the Hotel de Rome in Berlin, there is no need to go out and buy another one. That is because this hotel offers Schumacher designer dresses at no extra charge. The Schumacher shop is located just a few minutes away from the hotel and in the snap of a finger; a private shopping trip will be arranged for you. Guests should be aware that they will have to return the dresses, and hopefully no red wine will end up on it. Whether it is a cocktail dress, evening gown or something more elaborate, Schumacher has got you covered. This is one amenity that we think other hotels and resorts need to get on board with!

Photo by: Hotel de Rome
Photo by: Hotel de Rome

1. Private Submarine Rides, Fiji

It might just be the absolute coolest hotel perk and guests of the Laucala Island Resort in Fiji can have the chance to experience a ride in the resorts personal submarine. What cost a guest $2,000 a few short years ago is now included in the price of an all-inclusive package. The futuristic two-seater submarine called DeepFlight Super Falcon is capable of diving up to 1,500 feet down. This winged submarine flies through the water more like a sea creature than a boat and features 360-degree viewing capabilities through its acrylic domes. Guests of the resort can enjoy a one hour trip with the pilot of the sub where they can expect to see an abundance of coral reef and marine life including clown fish, turtles and leopard sharks. Room rates here start at about $4,600 a night and include not only a submarine ride but spa treatments, golfing, butler service and other extreme amenities.

Photo by: Laucala Island
Photo by: Laucala Island

7 Things to See and Do in Fiji

It isn’t hard to understand why people of all ages want to travel to Fiji on their next vacation. Images of lush green tropical rain forests, stunningly clear waters and white sand beaches fill our screens when we google “Fiji”. Time and time again we are told about the incredible resorts, the unique villages, the unbelievable diving and snorkeling and the magic of the people. So why wait? Fiji is becoming more affordable and travelers are discovering even more great things about the island. Here are our top seven choices of things to see and do in the wonderful world of Fiji.

7. Visit Viseisei Village

According to locals Viseisei village which is located 12 kilometers north of Nadi is the oldest settlement in Fiji, believed to have been founded by some of the first settlers more than two millennia ago. This village has also been home to some of Fiji’s leaders and hosted dignitaries such as Prince Charles. You will have to pay the ladies at the craft market to take you around, a fee that costs only $3 and is well worth it. Visitors will get a real sense of village life and see things such as a traditional chief’s hut and ceremonial drums, as well as the Methodist Church. An important monument is in this village, and includes both a cross and neck-breakers club, that was used in past times by Fijian cannibals. Make sure to cover up here, both your knees and shoulders as anything less is disrespectful in this setting.

Photo by: Greagoir Cathasaigh
Photo by: Greagoir Cathasaigh

6. Dive in Beqa Lagoon

It is considered one of the best diving locations in all of Fiji and the perfect location for those wanting to take a dive vacation. It is home to more than 100 dive sites and some just a five-minute boat trip from shore. Expect to see blue ribbon eels, seahorses, ghost pipefish and more as you explore this underwater oasis. Above water make sure to spend some time at one of the awesome dive resorts which feature beautiful accommodations, private plunge pools, excellent dining choices and more. As an added bonus, it is extremely easy to reach from the main island of Fiji, letting divers slip in the water without taking a domestic flight out to the outer islands.

Beqa Lagoon fiji

5. Explore Taveuni

It is known as Fiji’s garden island, although its jungle interior resembles more of a rugged Tarzan like atmosphere. Regardless this island is hot, wet and blanketed in palms, ferns and tropical wildflowers. Much of the island is protected national park, meaning visitors will have the chance to glide through clear waters on a bamboo raft, cool off under towering waterfalls and hike along the breathtaking beaches. The hikes on this island are absolutely stunning but if you are looking to explore underwater, there is plenty of opportunity for that too. A diverse marine life and incredible corals draws snorkelers and divers from around the world to discover the Somosomo Strait, Waitabu Marine Park and Vuna Reef. Get here by hitching a ride by plane or boat from Viti Levu.

Photo by: Fiji Travel
Photo by: Fiji Travel

4. Take a Seaspray Sailing Adventure

The chance to explore beautiful beaches, lagoons and crystal clear water awaits visitors when they board the 85-foot classic sailing schooner, the Seaspray. This schooner departs daily from Mana Island and offers a fun-filled day for visitors anchoring at several islands. Modriki Island is the first stop where you can go ashore and explore the deserted island, snorkel the colorful reefs or simply sunbathe on the soft sand. This also happens to be the island from Tom Hank’s movie ‘Cast Away’. Yanuya Island is the next stop where guests will have the chance to visit a traditional Fijian Island Village, being welcomed onshore with a traditional Kava ceremony. Everything is included on this boat including morning and afternoon tea, a delicious barbecue lunch and all wine, beer and soft drinks.

Photo by: South Sea Cruises here
Photo by: South Sea Cruises here

3. Spend Time in Suva

The capital of Suva may not seem like a place you want to spend a whole lot of time but this urban area actually offers an awesome waterfront that deserves to be explored. The horseshoe-shaped walk extends from the city to the national stadium and has become a popular place for both locals and tourists to stroll. It is here where you will find the botanic gardens and the Presidential Palace. Guards stand at attention wearing sandals and traditional white sulus, changing every two hours, a ceremony the kids will delight in. Bring a picnic along and watch as a game of pickup rugby starts, or take in the magnificent sunset.

Truba7113 / Shutterstock.com
Truba7113 / Shutterstock.com

2. Stay in the Number One Hotel

If you are looking to splurge on your trip to Fiji, it sure pays to spend some time at the number one hotel in all of Fiji, the Tokoriki Island Resort. It is the ultimate romantic beach vacation when you spend your time at this incredible resort. The villas are set in lush tropical gardens and feature unique tropical showers, along with personal pools. Dine on South Pacific and Asian inspired menus under the palm trees or overlooking the ocean. Activities here include guided nature walks, traditional kava ceremony, visiting the local village, playing tennis, diving or snorkeling the stunning clear waters or relaxing poolside with a cocktail in hand.

Photo by: Tokoriki Island Resort
Photo by: Tokoriki Island Resort

1. Raft the River

It may not be the first thing you think of when you think Fiji, white water rafting that is, but low and behold this is one of the best experiences to be had here. There truly is no better way to experience the authentic natural and cultural heritage of the islands than on a rafting adventure. In the remote highlands of Viti Levu lies one of the most unique river trips on earth, the Upper Navua River slices a deep chasm through the tropical interior and is surrounded by lush rain forest, fed by countless waterfalls and protected by challenging rapids. There are at least seventy waterfalls, km’s of deep narrow canyon, volcanic rocks that rise over 40 meters high and countless birds and wildlife to spot. It is a journey unlike any other and rafting this river is an experience you will never forget.

Photo by: Rivers Fiji
Photo by: Rivers Fiji

Chasing Summer: 10 Escapes From Winter

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

10. Seychelles

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

Seychelles

9. Indonesia

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

Bali, Indonesia

8. French Polynesia

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

Bora Bora 5

7. Sao Tome and Principe

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

Sao Tome and Principe Africa

6. Brazil

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

Ipanema beach Brazil

5. Galapagos

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

Galapagos Islands

4. Fiji

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

Fiji Jetty

3. Chile

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

Vineyard Chile

2. Australia

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

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

1. Maldives

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

Maldives sunset

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries to Visit in 2016

As 2015 has started to wind down, no doubt many of us are already looking ahead and planning those vacations for the coming year. If you’ve been having trouble deciding just where you want to cross off your travel bucket list next, check out this list of the top countries to visit in 2016 as per Lonely Planet’s new guidebook; ‘Best in Travel 2016’. All countries and their rankings were determined by Lonely Planet’s staff and community members.

10. Fiji

It’s true that Fiji has had a rocky last decade or so after political unrest and government instability but it seems the country has sorted all that out and can now get back to being the model for island paradise. It’s geographic location has made it a bit harder to get to in the past but in 2016, the country’s international airport will get an upgrade making the travel process much smoother. Lonely Planet says that in 2016,”Fiji’s got its groove back” so prepare yourself for warm welcoming singers at every turn.

Fiji Jetty

9.  Greenland

While everyone else still seems to be hung up on Iceland, Lonely Planet insists that in 2016 it’s Greenland that arctic travelers should take note of. Part of this is due to the limited time factor, as a country that’s 80% covered in snow and ice will only last so long in a world that’s continually getting warmer. Come for the icebergs, midnight sun, dog-sledding and of course the Northern Lights, but also in March of 2016, come as Greenland hosts the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of it’s kind ever held.

Greenland

8. Uruguay

For decades Uruguay has flown under the travel radar, often being overshadowed by its boisterous neighbors Brazil and Argentina. But they don’t call this country “the Switzerland of America” for nothing; while other South American countries deal with conflict after conflict, Uruguay revels in political stability, good governance, peacefulness and prosperity. Granted safety and security does not make a top travel destination, certainly not a Lonely Planet top 10 one anyway, but the architecture of Old Town Montevideo, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the opportunity to live out a traditional gaucho (cowboy) experience do.

Ksenia Ragozina / Shutterstock.com
Ksenia Ragozina / Shutterstock.com

7. Poland

According to Lonely Planet, the country of Poland has superpowers. That may seem ridiculous but for a country whose economy and visitor number continue to climb through a recession that brought to rest of Europe to its knees, it may not be such a stretch after all. Wrocław, the historical capital of Silesia will become a European Capital of Culture in 2016, a designation appointed by the EU that will surely see the city in the spotlight. And it’s not the only city to see some stardom in 2016 either; Kraków will be getting a visit by the Pope for World Youth Day when arrives to kick-off a calendar of celebrations and activism.

Wrocław Poland

6. Australia

Unless you’re from New Zealand, a trip to Australia may seem out of reach. It’s a notion that has many travelers saying “too far, too expensive” but Lonely Planet insists the 24 hours of flying time will be well spent one you experience the beauty and diversity of this land down under. The weakening Australian dollar is also another reason why 2016 is the right time for that trip you’ve always dreamed of. Several of Australia’s most renowned natural attractions are under threat, including the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania’s astounding wilderness. With the threats of dredging and logging looming, the time to see these natural wonders is now, before they’re seemingly unrecognizable.

Australia Great Barrier Reef

5. Latvia

Latvia hasn’t always been a place you’d want to visit, mostly thanks to the shadow of Communism and oppression that blanketed the country during its Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1991. Now, on the country’s 25th anniversary of independence, the story is much different. Lonely Planet says that after over two decades of playing catch up to its neighboring European countries, it’s clearly earned the title of ‘most improved.’ This theme is evident in everything from the food to the buildings as everywhere you turn, old castles and manor houses are being lovingly restored and turned into beautiful inns and museums.

Latvia

4. Palau

This country is more accurately described as an archipelago of over 500 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean. From that info one may have pieced together that the scuba diving and snorkeling here is unsurpassed by many other places on earth. While Australia is struggling to protect its famous reef, Palau is blazing new trails by designating 100% of its marine territory as a protected sanctuary. A move which earned President Remengesau the title of ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the United Nations. Even if you prefer to keep your head above water, this ‘underwater Serengeti’ has offerings for you too, including kayaking, sailing and wildlife watching.

Palau

3. USA

You wouldn’t be alone if you’re thinking that the USA may be the odd man out on this years top countries list but Lonely Planet knows what they’re doing and there’s good reason for it. In 2016 the US National Park Service turns 100, celebrating a century of the governing body responsible for protecting the nation’s national parks and historic landmarks. It’s one of the reasons that names like Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Badlands, Zion, and Shenandoah are still accessible today. So in 2016, pack your hiking boots (and some good wool socks of course) and prepare for an outdoor adventure of natural splendor.

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone National Park

2. Japan

While Japan lands at #2 on this years top travel list, Lonely Planet insists it still “ranks number one in the world for that quintessential not-in-Kansas-anymore travel experience.” Anyone who’s been to Japan and witnessed the brightly illuminated, highly automated streets of Tokyo, already knows this to be true. But in 2016 it’s Japan’s amazing juxtaposition of old and new, modern and historic that puts it firmly on the Best in Travel list. The city of Tokyo is already seeing activity in preparation for hosting the 2020 Olympic games, including the creation of a new shopping district, an Olympic Village and the movement of the famous Tsukiji fish market to a brand new facility.

Japan Torri Gates

1. Botswana

Lonely Planet describes the #1 country on this list as “Democratic, progressive, enlightened – but above all, invigoratingly wild.” The continent of Africa doesn’t exactly scream safety and political stability but Botswana is an exception to these stereotypes. In 2016 the country celebrates 50 years in independence and in those 50 years Botswana has become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies with a growing economy, minimal corruption (what country doesn’t have some) and a forward thinking tourism industry. Aside from economic factors, it’s Botswana’s vast, untamed and pristine wilderness (17% of the country is dedicated to national parks) that deserves your attention. Lonely Planet also says that the myths of this country being ‘too far, inaccessible, and not catering to families’ are simply not true. But as always, you’ll just have to plan a trip and see for yourself.

Okavango Delta Botswana

Outside Magazine’s Travel Awards 2015

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

15. Montana’s Wild West Adventure

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

Montana

14. Roadtripping in India

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

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

13. Conquer the San Juan Mountains

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

San Juan Mountains Colorado

12. A New Spin on the Classic Safari

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

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

11. Road Trip the Golden State—on a Bike

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

biking san francisco

10. Dive Deep in Cuba

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

Giant Grouper

9. Cruise Doubtful Sound

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

Doubtful Sound

8. Paddle through Fiji

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

Kayak Fiji

7. A Safari in Greenland

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

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

6. Experience Paddleboarding in Belize

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

Photo by: Island Expeditions
Photo by: Island Expeditions

5. Apres-Ski in New Mexico

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

Photo by: Bavarian Lodge
Photo by: Bavarian Lodge

4. Domestic Adventure in North Carolina

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

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

3. International Adventure in Chile

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

Patagonia National Park

2. Bicycle Adventures for Families

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

Photo by: Bicycle Adventures
Photo by: Bicycle Adventures

1. Wilderness Travel’s Outfitted Trips

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

Photo by: Wildreness Travel
Photo by: Wildreness Travel

11 Islands That Look Like Other Things

When viewed from above there are hundreds of islands that look like shapes, animals and objects. What they have in common is the ability to stand out among so many in their unique features. From hearts to dolphins to a penis shaped island, there is fun to be had discovering what islands can really look like if you use your imagination. From uninhabited islands to groups of islands, here are our favorite 11 islands that look a whole lot like other things.

11. Spratly Islands, Asia

The Spratly Islands are a disputed group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea and one just happens to look exactly like a boomerang. The islands here have no indigenous inhabitants, but offer rich fishing grounds and may contain significant oil and natural gas reserves, which is why these islands are in hot dispute. There are actually only four square kilometers of land with six countries staking territorial claims and the vast majority of these islands are uninhabited, closed military bases or off-limits to casual visitors. The best way to take in the shape of the boomerang is to fly directly over it, but depending on the season and flow of current, it doesn’t always resemble its shape.

Photo by: Storm Crypt's Flickr photostream via cogitASIA
Photo by: Storm Crypt’s Flickr photostream via cogitASIA

10. Tasmania, Australia

It is the first of two islands that are shaped like hearts and the heart island of Tasmania is located about 150 miles south of the Australian mainland. It is one of the most romantic places on earth with its white sandy beaches, beautiful lakes, fishing villages, rugged mountain peaks and breathtaking coasts. It makes complete sense that indeed this island than should be shaped like a heart. Boasting some of the cleanest air in the world, along with a spellbinding landscape, and just under half a million friendly locals; this island deserves to be looked at from both above and on the ground. Whether you are looking to relax on the beach or fly through the mountains, visitors certainly won’t be bored here.

Photo by: NASA via Why Files
Photo by: NASA via Why Files

9. Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, Portugal

This small paradise when looked at from above truly looks like a slice of pizza, with a huge pepperoni slice smack dab in the middle. The islet is a result of the crater of a submerged volcano and an almost perfectly round lake at the center is linked to the sea by a narrow channel. It is located offshore of the larger island of São Miguel. It is actually one of São Miguel’s main tourist attractions, especially since an event in the Red Bull Cliff Diving world championship was held here. It’s crystal clear waters and the small but lovely beach are excellent for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling and diving. It was once open all year round, but now the islet can only be visited during the high season, between June and September, during which a special boat service takes passengers from Vila Franca to the islet on a daily basis.

Photo by: Amusing Planet
Photo by: Amusing Planet

8. Crocodile Island, Philippines

The Philippines are known for their crocodiles and it should come as no surprise that they not only have an island shaped like one but the actual name of the island is Crocodile Island. This island is located near the popular beach destination Boracay and takes just 20 minutes to reach by boat. The most popular activities here are scuba diving and sailing due to the abundance of marine life. Currents can sometimes be strong in the area but this island is recommended for divers of all experience. Expect to see schools of colorful fish, moray eels, sea snakes and fan corals here. Visitors won’t likely step foot on the island; instead they will dive or snorkel right off the boat that brings you here. In recent years the corals have been damaged and snorkeling isn’t as good as it once was.

Photo by: Panoramio
Photo by: Panoramio

7. Guishan Island, Taiwan

This island is actually a volcano and just so happens to be the only active volcano in Taiwan. It also most definitely resembles a turtle with its head peaking out of the water. This island has a few claims to fame including being the largest and only island with residents in the Yilan County. Tourists love to come visit this island but in order to preserve it, the number of tourists is controlled and you must apply to come here before visiting. One of the main draws to the island is the whale watching opportunities and the marine life viewing on the island, even though there are large amounts of sulfur and acid in the air. The coastal views alone are worth visiting for and make sure to view it from a distance to get the full turtle shape experience.

Photo by: Panoramio
Photo by: Panoramio

6. Mavuva Island, Fiji

Sweeping beaches, crystal clear waters and lots for sale at a great price makes this island seem like a dream come true. There is only one unfortunate thing about it; it has a very…phallic shape to it. The 42-acre private island is located off the northern coast of Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu. It has been carved into 97 lots that are up for sale and a beachfront clubhouse, restaurant, bar and organic garden are all part of the development. The island sits in protected coral lagoon and is home to an abundance of marine life. Although many will find building a dream home here on this male genitalia-shaped island, offensive; others snap up the bargain lots on this phallus-shaped island.

Photo by: Distractify
Photo by: Distractify

5. Molokini Island, Hawaii

This crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater that forms a small islet just happens to look just like a crescent moon. This carefully protected Marine Life Conservation District is also a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary. It is considered one of Hawaii’s premier dive spots as the unusual shape protects divers and snorkelers from strong currents and large waves. What awaits divers is crystal clear waters teeming with over 250 species of fish and the chance to see the gentle gigantic whale sharks. More experienced divers can head to the underwater wall area down 70 feet while beginners can dive 35 feet into the crater basin. Visitors aren’t actually allowed to walk on the island and fish are not allowed to be caught.

Photo by: Islands
Photo by: Islands

4. Dilumacad Island, Philippines

This island found in El Nido, Palawan catches the eyes of many due to its unusual shape. When viewed from a distance the limestone cliffs resemble the shape of a helicopter, without the propeller. The island is home to a beautiful white sand beach that stretches some 300 meters as well as dark green rainforests and towering cliffs. At the northern side of the island there is an amazing underwater tunnel and the southern edge gives way to a fringing reef. Many island hopping tourists find paradise on this amazing island and choose to picnic of the long stretch of sand, while relaxing in the shining sun.

Photo by: When On Earth
Photo by: When On Earth

3. Sirenuse, Italy

Known as Li Galli or Sirenuse, the dolphin-shaped archipelago is located off the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, between the Isle of Capri and the village of Positano. Sirenuse got its name after the Greek mythology’s Sirens who were believed to have visited the islands frequently tempted Ulysses on his way back home with their enchanting voices. The island has had many owners and most recently was bought by Giovanni Russo, a Sorrento hotelier who spent 15 years and millions of dollars restoring it. Besides using it as a private residence, Russo has also made the villas available for private rental and employs a staff and a launch to take guests to and from the mainland. Although members of the public cannot land here, they are welcome to swim in the surrounding waters.

Photo by: Panoramio
Photo by: Panoramio

2. Isabela Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

Isabela Island is considered the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago with an area of 4,640 square meters and the youngest among other islands as it was only formed about one million years ago. This island truly looks exactly like a seahorse and there is no second guessing what it is when looked at from above. Isabela Island is home to about 1,800 residents who make their living by fishing, farming and tourism. Visitors to the island love to watch the 16 species of whales that live nearby and dive into the waters with sea lions, sharks, stingrays and more at one of seven dive spots located off the shores. Another interesting fact about this large island is that it is home to more wild tortoises than all the other islands combined, with a separate species on each volcano.

Photo by: Earth Observatory via Tales Maze
Photo by: Earth Observatory via Tales Maze

1. Tavarua, Fiji

This teeny tiny island in Fiji is shaped like a perfect heart, ringed with white sand beaches and surrounded by a coral reef. Measuring only 29 acres in size, it is hard to believe that Fiji’s most iconic surf resort is here. This spot has been visited for a long time by surfers who journey here to catch world-class waves, although it wasn’t until 1982 when the island was truly discovered. There is no shortage of activities to do here including swimming, surfing, kayaking, sport fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling. The resort is made up of six cabins and visitors rave about the friendly local staff, great food and incredible surfing spots.

Photo by: Official Website of Tourism Fiji
Photo by: Tourism Fiji

The Best 12 Places in the World to Charter a Yacht

Planning your vacation is always one of the best parts about the vacation itself and if you happen to be taking a sailing trip in the near future, the first thing you have to decide is where you want to go. Are you looking for the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, complete with palm trees and white sand? Or are you after a more rugged and wild adventure? From the Southwest Pacific to the Mediterranean there are hundreds of amazing places to charter a yacht. Looking at an array of factors we have narrowed the list down to our favorite 12 places to charter a yacht around the world.

12. Fiji

In the Southwest Pacific there are 300 stunning islands over a large area of ocean waiting to be explored. These islands are surrounded by an abundance of sea life, spectacular reefs, crystal clear waters and beautiful lagoons. Fiji is also known for having some of the most welcoming people around. The remoteness of Fiji makes exploring these water and islands unlike anything else in the world. Discover the land of amazing beaches, coconut plantations, tropical rainforests and underwater adventures. Experiencing Fiji is easy, as English is widely spoken and it is known to be very safe. If you are looking for those long sandy beaches with palm trees and coral reefs make sure to get to the Mamanuca Islands. If you want to experience the traditional way of life, make sure to head to Yasawa Islands where the amazing scenery and crystal clear lagoons go perfectly with the laid-back lifestyle here.

Fiji Island

11. Seychelles Islands

The Seychelles Islands can best be described as paradise on earth with towering granite rocks, swaying giant palm trees and turquoise inlets that are framed with sparkling white sand beaches. These 115 islands lay off the east coast of Africa, just south of the Equator and are absolutely breathtaking. The outer islands are low-laying, mostly coral atolls and sailing is done mainly within the inner islands, all close together which make for easy island hopping. They are blessed to be situated in a balmy, calm part of the Indian Ocean and exploring these secluded islands is a once in a lifetime experience. Mahe is the largest and most developed isle and deserves to be explored at the mountains soar to almost 3,000 feet above sea level and the tropical forests are laced with hiking trails. Picturesque bays and coves line e 44 miles of coastline and boast 65 world-class beaches.

Seychelles

10. Tortola, British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands boast that they have more yachts there than anyone else in the world, reminding everyone that this destination is the perfect place to charter a yacht. What makes this destination so perfect? To start, the consistent trade winds, line-of-site navigations and abundance of sheltered anchorages. The ideal blend of easy deep water island hops is perfect for the whole family. Combine all of this with crystal clear waters, picture perfect beaches, breathtaking rock formations, abundance of on-shore activities and a great selection of dining options, and you can see why so many people love to sail here. Make sure to visit Anegada with its pristine white sand beaches and colonies of pink flamingoes. If you are sailing as a family you won’t want to miss Marina Cay, a flower covered island nestled in the calm, sheltered warm water lagoon that is perfect for young children.

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com
Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

9. Thailand

Thailand is truly an awesome destination for sailors from anywhere in the world. Sandy beaches, towering palm trees, mountain ranges and bright blue sea make for an unforgettable landscape. Chartering a yacht here allows you to find both peace and tranquility while still letting you indulge in the sensational nightlife. Each island will share the same tranquil waters but feature different beaches and amazing landscapes. Head to Phuket if you want to escape the busyness and explore the exotic flora and fauna, hidden coves and bays. Everywhere you go in Thailand expect wonderful food and the warmest of welcomes from the locals. They don’t call this place “The Land of Smiles” without good reason. Warm waters mean plenty of snorkeling and diving throughout the day and we promise a yacht trip here won’t be boring.

Thailand yacht

8. Sicily, Italy

Sailors are attracted to this part of the Mediterranean for its famous beaches, secluded anchorages and quiet fishing villages. You will want to spend some time in the port of Palermo as this ancient city begs to be explored. Visitors can expect historic squares, impressive cuisine and stunning architecture. Also found in Palermo are an abundance of galleries, museums and opera houses. Don’t miss out on heading to the Aeolian Islands which are located just 35 miles north of Sicily. This chain of volcanic islands offers seas as clear as the Bahamas, exceptional cuisine and breathtaking landscapes. Also plan on visiting Catania where you will have extraordinary views of Mount Etna, as well as Trapani and Marsala.

Sicily, Italy

7. Whitsunday Islands, Australia

The 74 Whitsunday Islands are located along the northeastern coast of Australia, right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Water sports along with snorkeling and diving excursions brings yachters from all over the world to experience these waters. The eight main islands here offer resorts but there are plenty of deserted islands and sandbars to visit as well. Make sure to anchor at Bauer Bay and walk to the top; as you will get the best view of the islands. Blue Pearl Bay is the spot you will want to anchor at if you want great snorkeling and plenty of whale sightings. Make sure you don’t miss Whitehaven Beach, considered one of the best beaches in the world. True to its name this beach offers pure white sand, some of the purest on earth and charms visitors with beautiful sunsets and breathtaking views.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays

6. French Rivera

This coastal region along the Mediterranean is just packed full of breathtaking beaches and stunning scenery. Full of sunshine all year round, to charter a yacht here will be an experience unlike any other. This area manages to do an incredible job of combining the rugged landscapes with the large cosmopolitan resorts of Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo. For vibrant nightlife and exceptional cuisine, head inland to any of these places. To escape the crowds, yacht down to Port Cros and Porquerolles where the atmosphere is relaxed and gently swaying palm trees is all the action you will see. Historical architecture along this coast combined with white sandy beaches and small marinas make this one of the most fabled places to charter a yacht.

Oleg Znamenskiy / Shutterstock.com
Oleg Znamenskiy / Shutterstock.com

5. Canary Islands, Spain

Located just off the coast of Africa, the Canary Islands are a popular European vacation destination, especially for those looking to take to the seas. Unspoiled nature and favorable winds make this a year round destination. The islands are a mix of different cultures, people, historical influences and warm local hospitality. The best way to explore the islands is to travel to and from them by yacht. The beaches of Gran Canaria are among the favorite of all visitors as well as the bustling nightlife of Tenerife. The island of La Palma is what makes this destination stand out among the rest though, and some visitors here refer to it as the most beautiful place in the world. With sheltered marinas, breathtaking beaches and favorable winds; this is one of the best places to be on the water in the world.

Canary Islands Tenerife

4. Croatia

Croatia is one of the Mediterranean’s hidden gems, offering over 1,000 islands and is truly a sailor’s paradise. The Dalmatian Islands are wild, rugged and mostly uninhabited and offer some of the best sailing in the area. Ancient villages steeped in history, pristine beaches and the isolated Kornati archipelago await you here. If you do plan on sailing here and want seclusion, plan on coming from in early spring where you can find your own private little cove. The water in April and May can be warm enough to swim in. If you are looking for exceptional cuisine, wine and culture; head on over to the West and South Istria where the people are proud to offer you these goods. Croatia happens to be a very popular spot for yacht owners who wish to keep their yachts in Europe but not in the EU, as it gives them a tax break.

Dubrovnik Croatia

3. Turkey

Turkey boasts over 8,300 kilometers of coastline, four seas and an abundance of coves, inlets, bays, beaches and marinas. Sailing in turkey is amongst the best in the world due to the crystal clear blue waters, the steady winds and the abundance of beautiful beaches and secluded anchorages. Turkey has long since been the meeting point between the Far East and Mediterranean and the culture and cuisine in this country can reflect this. The stretch of Turkish coast line is divided in four different yacht charter areas; each offering their own unique experience. Head up the Ionian Coast if you are looking for the best climate and to discover the shores which brought forth the rich culture of the Ionians or if you feel like discovering mountainous shores head to the West Lycian Coast. Rock tombs make up much of the Easy Lycian Coast and the Carian Coast is the most popular sailing ground.

Turkish Riveira

2. St. Martin

St. Martin has to be one of the most popular sailing destinations in the world and it’s no wonder why as this island is overflowing with beauty. The island is ruled by both French and the Netherlands and you truly get to experience two cultures in one place when you visit. When you charter a yacht here there are plenty of other islands to explore including St Barths, Anguilla and Saba. Expect beautiful deserted beaches full of silky white sand, exceptional waterfront restaurants and exceptional shopping. Explore the waters and learn why Saba is a diver and snorkelers paradise. The enchanting tropical scenery combined with enough nightlife, world-famous beaches and other islands to explore make this the number one Caribbean escape.

Yachts St. Martin

1. Greece

Greece boasts over 3,000 islands and islets and truly is one of the best places on earth to charter a yacht. The ancient archeology, stunning natural landscapes and rich culture draws yacht goers from all over the world. Some of the most popular islands to explore include Santorini, Mykonos and Crete. In Santorini you will find white washed houses, striking hillside towns and sunsets to die for. Crete offers visitors exceptional Greek food and the chance to go back thousands of years in history at one of their many archeological sites. Mykonos is where you will find the busyness of the Greek Islands, so head here if you want to experience the epic nightlife and packed main beaches. Sail through the ancient seas here exploring the many islands, both inhabited and not, under the glorious Mediterranean sun.

Greece islandssi

10 Private Islands You Can Own Today

Owning your own private island is the ultimate dream for many people. Lucky for them, it no longer has to be just a dream. If you happen to have a few million sitting around in the bank it is actually quite easy to buy an island. Don’t despair if you don’t have quite a million dollars though, there are actually some affordable islands for sale across the globe. What are you waiting for? Empty out the bank account and go buy one of these 10 private islands that are for sale right now!

10. Pink Pearl Island -Nicaragua

If you have ever wanted to own an island and make money doing it, Pink Pearl Island may be for you. Located just 3 miles off Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast, the area is known for its excellent diving and sport fishing. The island is currently operating as a tourism business but can be turned into your own private residence easily. It features a cylinder main house, three cabanas, a fisherman style shack and a bar/restaurant. The best part about this island may just be the absence of mosquitoes and sand flies. Throw in a heart shaped swimming pool with a fresh water pump, stunning ocean views, a pier to dock your boat and its own well to supply water and you have yourself a pretty amazing slice of paradise. Did we happen to mention that the owners of this island are also throwing in their 25 foot, 150 horsepower speedboat in?

Photo by: Islands
Photo by: Islands

9. Mccaffrey Island -Oregon, USA

If you would prefer to purchase an island a little closer to home, Mccaffrey Island may be just what you are looking for. Listed at $1.25 million this island comes complete with a gorgeous five bedroom house, sandy beach and its own well. It is located on the Yaquina River only 6 miles by boat to the open ocean. The island features apple trees which the deer frequently visit, a covered deck, complete with a fire pit and the most gorgeous scenery and sunsets. The island was truly built to be enjoyed by people who love nature and are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but with the conveniences making it feel like home.

Yaquina River

8. Nukudrau Island -Fiji

This island is located in the largest bay in the Southern Hemisphere, Natewa Bay and surrounded by crystal clear waters of the South Pacific. It is an undeveloped island currently separated into 25 individual lots, letting buyers decide whether to keep the island to themselves or develop into a resort. What surrounds this island is simply magical; amazing snorkeling, diving, fishing and a resident pod of dolphins that will delight you. This blank canvas allows your imagination to run wild and if you have big enough pockets, you could build your dream home. The seven peaks that rise up out of the sea on this island are the perfect spot to build on. The island is a total of 46 acres and the price unfortunately is not listed, so if you are serious about owning this island it is best to contact the seller.

Fiji Island

7. Pate Island -Ontario, Canada

All you will need to bring to this island is your groceries as the home; all its furnishing and appliances are being sold along with the island. Located on Georgian Bay in Ontario this island is 4.5 acres and offers some of the best sunset views in the whole country. The house is a three bedroom, two bathroom cottage style, complete with a stone fireplace, open concept kitchen and cedar wraparound porch. The far end of the island boasts a sheltered harbor that features a boathouse and ‘U” shaped docking pier. All the docks lead to deep clean water and the scenery surrounding this island makes it easy to understand why people love the area. The price tag is currently at $1.3 million and once you see this island, you will understand why.

Georgian Bay

6. Pumpkin Key -Florida, USA

If you want to go all out and spend a hundred million dollars; this would be the island to buy. Pumpkin Key is located in the Florida Keys and just a short boat ride away from Key Largo or helicopter ride to Miami. This private island is a total of 26 acres and includes one main house, a dock masters cabin and two caretaker cottages. It also happens to have tennis courts and golf cart paths throughout. This island is surrounded with ocean that is teeming with marine life such as dolphins, sport fish and lobsters. World renowned snorkeling, scuba diving and sport fishing is just outside the doors. Buying this island also means access to Ocean Reef, a private and prestigious club that offers dining, shopping and its own private airstrip.

Key Largo

5. Mowgli Island -British Columbia, Canada

If you aren’t keen about hurricane season, tropical weather and too much sunshine; there is still an island for you. Located within the Southern Gulf Islands sits Mowgli Island; a nine acre gem that will quickly get snatched up. This island features sandy beaches, an ‘L’ shaped dock for year round mooring of vessels and an incredible house. The house features four impressive bedrooms and a separate bunkhouse for guests, as well as 1,000 square feet of deck that surrounds the house. It is nestled right into the trees and features many windows allowing for the most natural light to shine through. A pier extends into the water and many different shorelines can be explored. Impressive scenery, an award winning house and a beautiful country; what more could you ask for.

Photo by: Private Islands Inc.
Photo by: Private Islands Inc.

4. Temple Island -Queensland, Australia

Coming in just shy of a million dollars, this property was reduced for quick sale and is expected to be swiped any day now. Situated about two miles off the coast of Queensland, this island offers everything you need. A private airstrip making it easy to get to, a four bedroom home set on top the highest vantage point on the island and white sand beaches. Temple Island is home to sea turtles during nesting season, plenty of orchids, rainforest and a slew of oyster whales. They will even throw in the 1986 Range Rover that is on the island; although we cannot be sure if it still works or not. One of the best deals in Australia is Temple Island coming in at $850,000. Scoop this island up before it’s too late.

Queensland Shore

3. Isla Paloma -Panama

For just $400,000 dollars you can be the owner of the quarter acre Isla Paloma, located just off the northern shore of Panama. The island is located in calm waters, surrounded by barrier islands and comes complete with a house already on it. It features a white sandy beach, and is surrounded by a shallow lagoon. Views are of the mountains, oceans and incredible sunsets. The house is completely furnished and features two bedrooms plus a loft and is move-in ready. Did we mention this island also features a party shack, boathouse and swim dock. It  also boasts that it is spider and snake free due to its size and proximity to other islands. The only things you will find here are colorful exotic birds and a couple of local geckos. The only question here is why hasn’t someone snatched up this amazing island already?

Photo by: Private Islands Inc.
Photo by: Private Islands Inc.

2. Jewel Caye -Belize

This 2+ acre private island is currently on the market for $3.15 million. This pristine islands sits smack down in the midst of the azure waters of the Cockney Range Area. It is home to two master houses, one on each side of the island and each over 2,000 square feet. Both have lofts and tons of balcony space; perfect for family and friends. Two more duplexes and a total of three homes for crew are also located on this island. But that is not all. Along with plenty of space for visitors this island is home to a 120 foot pier that stretches out over the water and opens up to the main kitchen, bar and convening area. Step off the ladder into the clear waters that are loaded with visible coral, a snorkeler’s paradise. The island is also equipped with WiFi, satellite TV and electrical systems powered by solar panels. This island truly leaves no stone unturned.

Photo by: Private Islands Inc.
Photo by: Private Islands Inc.

1. Johnny’s Cay -Bahamas

This island paradise is 4.46 acres and can be yours for the price of just $5.95 million. It is also located just a seven minute boat ride away from all the conveniences of Hope Town. There are two houses already on this island, a main house that boasts an open concept layout with high ceilings, large windows and two bedrooms alongside a guest house with an extra two bedrooms for visitors. Two white sandy beaches provide ample room to stretch out and relax and enjoy the calm, deep and protected waters. A man built marina is already on-site, perfect for parking your boat. Ocean views, water sports and a private island to yourself, what more could anyone need.

Photo by: Joao Carlos Medau via Flickr
Photo by: Joao Carlos Medau via Flickr

The 8 Best Places in the World to Swim with Sharks

“Actually, nobody wants to swim with sharks. It is not an acknowledged sport and it is neither enjoyable nor exhilarating.“ – Voltaire Cousteau, How to Swim With Sharks, A Primer.
See that quote there? Ignore it, because it was written by some dude back in the late 1700’s who may or may not have been an ancestor of Jacques Cousteau, the person responsible for the very idea of swimming with sharks the way we do today. The fact of the matter is that YOU want to swim with sharks, let some other weirdo tell you about how they communed with dolphins and wept about how special it was, you want to cement yourself at the top of the food chain in both land and sea. EscapeHere is going to help you realize that goal, with this handy guide.

8. Tiger Sharks -Hawaii

The Tiger Shark is known to be a solitary hunter that generally pursues its prey at night. This shark is also known as the “Sea Tiger” due to its distinctive striped features and aggressiveness, noted for having the widest food spectrum of all sharks (from lobsters to surfboards). The Tiger Shark can easily reach a length of 16 feet and is common around the Pacific islands, but less so in recent years due to the fact that they are considered to be a near-threatened species because some cultures prize their fins as a magical cure-all. The best people to help you swim with Tiger Sharks are the folks at Hawaii Shark Encounters. Owned and operated by Stefanie Brendl, who started the company with her late partner and Shark Week personality Jimmy Hall, Hawaii Shark Encounters offers full service eco-tourist packages that allow you to get up close and personal with these predators from the safety of a shark cage.  Find out more at http://hawaiisharkencounters.com.

Tiger Sharks -Hawaii

7. Hammerhead Sharks –Costa Rica

Shaped like your most intuitive workshop implement, the Hammerhead Shark is one of the most distinctive sharks under the sea. Scientists have been arguing amongst themselves for years about the evolutionary function of their noggins, some argue that it is to improve either sensory input, maneuvering, prey manipulation or all three. The Hammerhead usually likes to swim in schools by day, then switches to solo-hunter mode at night. These unique predators can be found along almost every warm coast of the planet, from Costa Rica to Africa. There are only 11 species of Hammerhead shark, of those only 3 are considered to be ‘bitey’ to humans, none fatal, as of 2013 there have been 33 recorded attacks, none of them fatal. In Hawaiian culture, the Hammerhead is a sign of fortune, and to be passed by one is a sign that the gods are watching over your loved ones, and the ocean is clean. If you find yourself in the clean waters of Costa Rica, spend some time with a reputable dive operator, requesting a dive in an area frequented by Hammerheads. Rich coast diving is a well-reviewed outfitter, you would be served well to check them out: http://richcoastdiving.com/.

Hammerhead Sharks –Costa Rica

6. Bull Sharks -Fiji

Of all the sharks, the Bull Shark is the most dangerous to people, and the one that’s most likely to nibble your pink hand/foot bits that dangle off the end of a surfboard. A story about the series of shark attacks on the Jersey Shore back in 1916 was the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s Jaws story (they only missed Snooki by a hundred years or so). Generally it is the Bull Shark one sees when you think of anything shark-like, and it gets its name from its stubby appearance and aggressive nature. The Bull Shark is one of the few species of saltwater shark that actually tolerates fresh water, and they have been known to swim up the Mississippi River as far as Illinois. Bull Sharks are found in any warm ocean water coastal areas, in rivers, lakes and large rivers that are open to the ocean. Some of the best Bull Shark diving in the world is found in Fiji, and a great number of diving professionals name the Fiji Shark Dive as the best shark dive in the world. The Fiji Shark Dive is hosted by the Beqa Adventure Divers, which attracts some of the world’s best underwater professional cameramen and photographers.

Bull Sharks -Fiji

5. Whale Sharks -Honduras

The Whale Shark is the largest species of fish in existence, and is a non-aggressive filter feeder. These aquatic gentle giants have a mouth that is about 4.5 feet wide, with a wide flat head and two small eyes at the front. Bearing distinctive yellow spots and stripes, the Whale Shark’s skin can be almost four inches thick, serving as natural armor against many predators.  Even though the Whale Shark is huge, they pose little danger to humans, they are known to be very docile and sometimes give “rides” to divers (they let you grab their dorsal fins and they pull you along). Like most sharks, Whale Sharks are found in most warm coastal regions, one of the most popular regions you can find them is the Bay Islands in Honduras. The Deep Blue Utila resort, in conjunction with the Utila Whale Shark Research Project offer up a unique PADI certified diving package, as well as paradise on a private beach.

Whale Sharks -Honduras

4. Whitetip Reef Sharks -Australia

One of most common sharks in the Indo-Pacific, the Whitetip Reef Shark is easily spotted by its grey skin, slender shape, pronounced gills, and irregular swim pattern (its distinctive and hard to miss). These string beans of the shark family grow to be about 8 feet long but only weigh about 44 lbs. Whitetip Reef Sharks like to hang out in coral reefs, reef edges, sandy flats and shallow lagoons (they are relatively short water swimmers). Only found in the Indo-Pacific region, the Whitetip Reef Shark’s best habitat for the discerning diver is the Great Barrier Reef (one of the seven wonders of the natural world) in Australia. The very best reef shark-diving experience is from aboard a dive boat, in a live-aboard 4 Day Coral Sea Trip spanning two reef systems. Learn how you can book your Whitetip Reef Shark experience on the Spirit of Freedom by visiting the Diving Cairns website.

Whitetip Reef Sharks -Australia

3. Lemon Shark -Moorea

The Lemon Shark is the most studied shark in history, unlike most of their shark kin, the Lemon Shark handles captivity better than any other observable species. They get their name from their distinctive light colored yellowish skin, and they grow to be about 11 feet long, usually weighing around 420 lbs. The lemon Shark has electro-receptors which help them track prey, it’s a sort of radar that senses the electric impulses emitted by all living things. In addition to this tingly sense, the have a secondary olfactory sense aided by magnetic sensors in their nose offsetting their poor vision. Lemon Sharks are social hunters that roam in schools, migrating thousands of miles through the ocean to reach mating locations (like shark nightclubs with half price drinks on Wednesdays). They love the tropical and subtropical waters along the coast of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans opting for shallow water, hardly going deeper than 80 meters.  Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea, is known as the Lemon Shark Diving capital of the world, and TopDive’s Moorea Shark Experience allows you to have a safe excursion into this apex-predator’s habitat.

Lemon Shark -Moorea

2. The Basking Shark -Scotland

The Cetorhinus maximus, also known as the Basking Shark, can’t help but eat with its mouth open, no matter what his mom says. Not a lot is known about this giant fish, second in size only to its cousin the Whale Shark, it grows over 35 feet long and has an enormous mouth over 3 feet wide. The mouth is not to be feared however, the teeth on this giant fish are tiny, and the wide open mouth is only menacing to the plankton and other small floating sea creatures it hoovers up as it swims along. Basking sharks like to swim in water that swings from warm to cool, and like staying close to the surface where their food lives. These big mouthed superfish patrol the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and can sometimes be spotted off the coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. When it comes to swimming with these living fossils, Oban Scotland seems to be the place to be, and there is an extensive dive program that caters to those that want to swim with Basking Sharks specifically. Feel free to check out their tour schedule at http://baskingsharkscotland.co.uk/.

Photo by: YouTube/Simon Spear
Photo by: YouTube/Simon Spear

1. The Great White Shark –San Francisco

This is it, the moment you have all been waiting for, I can feel the anticipation as you have plowed through this exhaustive shark list and muttered to yourselves “jeez, get with the Jaws already!!” This Boogyman of the Sea, popularized by Peter Benchley and Spielberg movies, is hands down, the deadliest predator on the planet, and we as a species are fortunate that we don’t share the same habitat. Seriously, why would you swim with these guys, what would your mother think? Well, actually, Great White Shark attacks are very rare, even when humans and Great Whites swim together. Generally these toothy fish just aren’t that into you, for example, in the Mediterranean Sea (where their concentrations are great), there are only 31 confirmed attacks against people in the last 200 years! Now, if you still want to swim with these guys, contact the good people at Great White Adventures who host dives in San Francisco and Guadalupe Mexico, tell them Mike sent you, they will ask what the hell you are talking about, just wink and say “gotcha”.

Great White Shark Cage Dive