As the world progresses, it has become increasingly easier to travel around the world and build a new life in a new country. It is still a huge change that can be at times, very scary! You want to make sure that where you move is safe and offers great amenities throughout the country. To make your life easier, we’ve compiled a list of locations that are great places to settle your family in for an adventure of a lifetime, with as many perks as possible.
Norway is an amazing place to settle in for a few years with the average expat salary landing at a solid $97,486. The best part is that the importance of having a good work/life balance is a huge priority so you won’t be spending hours and hours at the office.
Sweden is an amazing option for expats because of their excellent work environments. 71% of expats say the Swedish work environment is better than what they have experienced in their previous countries.
Are you ready to make an amazing income and still have time for family? The average expat salary is a whopping $188,275 which is almost twice the global average. With a fantastic work environment and welcoming locals, how could this be a bad idea?
You always arrive thinking you’re just there for a season…and then ten years later you realize you’ll never leave. Surrounded with the ocean and quaint old towns, the fresh air will fill your lungs with that sense that you’ve finally made it home. It also helps that their first language is English so there won’t be any language barriers – just accent barriers!
It has perfect weather. That should be enough to get you to move already but not only is there good weather, but there’s low taxes. And not only is there low taxes, but there’s great health care and a low cost of living. It’s amazing!
If you are looking for a breathtaking location to learn about a new way of life, while eating incredible food made by even more incredible people, Italy is for you! Live here to get cultured and expand your horizons about what you know about the world.
Filled with blue skies and aquamarine waters, Finland invites you in with their affordable schooling and high quality healthcare. The general population also has a very high level of overall well being.
Not to be biased here, but with everything that’s happening in the world, I’ve never been more thankful to live in Canada. Not only is it safe and welcoming, but we celebrate diversity and are generally environmentally conscious. If these attributes of Canada appeal to you, moving here will not be a mistake!
With a beautiful set of cities, the Netherlands invites you to cycle through these cities as a primary mode of transportation. Many English speakers live here, so you will always have someone around to help you translate Dutch if you need some help.
France is a classic place to move to if you are looking for a change because of it’s timeless beauty and fame around the world for romance. With an average of a 35 hour work week and a 90 minute lunch break, you have yourself a well balanced lifestyle. Oh ya, and there’s also wine at every meal.
Retirement is an exciting time of wrapping up your many years of service to society and starting a new adventure in life using all the knowledge and wisdom you’ve acquired over the years. Then comes the question of where to live – where you have your whole adult life? Or moving to an incredibly beautiful, new location? Well, it’s not like I’m biased or anything, but I feel like your biggest adventure can start with where you live. Check out these places you may not have considered moving to.
1. Pau, France
A well-loved area of France, Pau is also known as the Garden City, filled with woodlands, friendly locals and a lively college student community. It is also in Wine Country and has the ancient town Gaves De Bearn within.
2. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of those places that is easy to navigate in and is filled with beauty around every corner. It is Spain’s second largest city and will keep your mind stimulated with all it’s historic landmarks.
3. Gozo, Malta
Why wouldn’t you want to live here? Oh my goodness it’s stunning. Retire to Gozo, Malta which is filled with sunshine and the ocean. Welcoming locals will want to involve you in their Karnival traditions and you will never run out of places to explore by foot and by boat.
4. Cascais, Portugal
This small town is filled with incredible architecture and breathtaking views. Looking out onto peaceful waters, this little community is filled with incredible restaurants and stunning designer boutiques.
5. Canton of Valais, Switzerland
Home to the world renowned mountain Matterhorn, this incredible location will not disappoint. Visit the Ice Palace nearby or after hitting the slopes, take a weekly trip to the closest thermal spa. This little spot will hold a special place in your heart once you settle in for your retirement years.
6. Abruzzo, Italy
Instead of a city, this region of Italy is absolutely stunning and couldn’t be reduced to just one city. With fantastic house prices and welcoming locals, this area of Italy is well loved by locals and expats alike.
7. Paris, France
When you’re surrounded with culture, you can only become a better person. Paris is one of those places where you will always keep learning and experiencing new things while travelling through the city for only 1.90 Euros for public transit. With movies, museums, local grocers and bakers nearby, you’ll always get the best of everything. Talk about a luxurious retirement!
8. Halkidiki, Greece
A gorgeous location with reasonable home prices is the perfect recipe for a successful retirement. Who would’ve thought that you could afford a dream location like this?
9. Algarve, Portugal
Stunning, isn’t it? With affordable real estate, sunny weather and sandy beaches, I don’t see why you wouldn’t just retire tomorrow and move here as soon as humanly possible!
10. Dusseldorf, Germany
Dusseldorf is a city filled with culture and overall joy. Listed as the city with the second best quality of life, retirees will find a vibrant city culture in their new home. The city also is a hub of finance, fashion and the arts, so there is always much to see and do any day of the week.
11. Gdansk, Poland
Listed as one of the happiest places to live, Gdansk will light up your life with it’s strong community. Gdansk is also known as the City of Freedom for playing a vital role in the collapse of communism.
12. Bruck an der Mur, Austria
This tiny town is clearly under rated. With mouth watering good food, historical monuments tucked away for you to discover, and good health care, what else can you ask for?
13. Munich, Germany
Discover the historic and photogenic city of Munich! It is considered the most liveable city by the Mercer Quality of Life Index and has the best healthcare in Germany. You can sleep easy knowing that you will be well cared for in this diverse city.
14. Dorset, England
This quaint little county has views that will make you stop in your tracks to fully take in the beauty in front of you. Dorset attracts retirees so many friendly neighbours await, and there is a high level of health for the 65+ age group.
15. Bergen, Norway
Did you know that Norway is the world’s happiest country? Bergen is Norway’s second largest city, but has the feel of a small town. Located near dramatic waterfalls, breathtaking Fjords, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is no shortage of beauty here.
Most European waterways are not suitable for summer, due to health concerns, but that hasn’t stopped cities from inventing some pretty amazing urban beaches. In order to beat the heat and celebrate the summer, cities have imported sand, created epic pools and decked out busy streets in beach huts and sun chairs. From the capital of Poland to the streets of Paris, these are 11 of the absolute best urban beaches in all of Europe.
11. Poniatówka Beach, Warsaw
The capital of Poland was severely lacking in beaches until only a few years ago and that’s when this beach popped into the spotlight. This wild and wide beach located right in the city offers everything from beach volleyball to nightly bonfires to sunbathing to wild nightly parties. Partying isn’t the only thing this beach offers though; wildlife is plentiful if you can find a quiet spot. Animals such as otters, elk, deer and boar have been known to show themselves to visitors. Make sure to check out Temat Rzeka, an epic beach bar that is home to thousands of customers a night and offers such activities as film screenings, beach volleyball and huge beach parties.
10. Tamariz, Lisbon
Just a half hour train ride away from Lisbon this urban beach is popular with both locals and visitors. The setting here is absolutely beautiful, with 350 meters of beach, sand and open sea. The waters here are calm and tranquil, and the beach is sandy which makes it the perfect family setting. The eastern edge of the beach actually features an ocean swimming pool with slightly warmer temperatures than the sea. Chair rentals can be expensive so many people choose to bring their own along. A beautiful medieval palace overlooks this beach, only adding to its charm and beauty. Plenty of cafes and restaurants are located nearby, making it easy to spend the entire day here.
9. Barceloneta, Barcelona
This exciting city got even better when the Olympics came here in 1992, as it was then that the coastline got a serious makeover. It was decided that the city would open up to the sea and restaurants and public bathhouses were torn down and replaced with first-rate beaches. These sandy beaches were created with beautiful hotels and incredible restaurants lining them and as the years go on, this area only gets better. Day or night, visitors will find the coolest crowds here. There are over 1100 meters of beach to enjoy, along with an abundance of sea activities. One can actually walk to the center of the city via a walkway lined with palm trees, cafes and modern landmarks.
8. South Bank, London
This sliver of seaside charm is located beside one of the city’s busiest stretches of pavement. This corridor of sand skirts along Queen’s Walk, opposite the Southbank Centre and is full of sand, chairs and beach huts. This isn’t a beach you will want to visit if you are looking for a relaxing time but if you are looking to grab a few cocktails, build a couple sandcastles and take in awesome views of the Thames, this is the place to be. This beach is constantly buzzing all summer long with locals and visitors taking in the concerts, events and exhibitions that happen. Enjoy mingling with others, taking in live shows and soaking in the incredible and lively atmosphere.
7. Canary Wharf, London
The people of London and visitors to this city are in for a treat when it comes to urban beaches. The most popular may just be Canary Wharf, a sandy oasis hidden beneath the skyscrapers. The beach is loaded with volleyball courts and the famous KERB food market, where many city slickers head to grab a bite to eat during lunch hours. The beach here is dependent on what events are happening each summer and sand is brought in to create volleyball courts, beach rugby fields and more. Expect something different each time you visit here.
6. Vltava River, Prague
There may be no sea here but that didn’t stop Prague from creating one awesome urban beach on the banks of the Vltava River. With 500 tones of imported sand, over 200 pool chairs and a stunning pool; it’s no wonder locals and visitors flock to this beach. Not just for adults though, this beach has a kid’s playground located directly on it. If you are looking to get some activity in, try your hand at badminton or beach volleyball, with courts located directly on the beach. As the sun sinks and the stars come out this beach transforms into a party, with live music, dancing and special events running all summer long. Open from 10am-112pm daily, there is no bad time to visit this beach as long as the sun is shining.
5. Blijburg Aan Zee, Amsterdam
It is Amsterdam’s one true urban beach, complete with a sandy beach and swimming waters. The beach itself is 250 meters long and 40 meters wide and constantly hopping with things to do. The beach is open from June until September, Wednesdays through Sundays. Activities here include brunches on Sundays, kid’s events on the weekends and DJ’s and live bands throughout the months. The food here is absolutely wonderful and much of it is organic and vegetarian. At nighttime there is always a campfire to curl up around and visitors here will enjoy the laid back vibe of the locals. This beach also happens to host a ton of beach parties, windsurfing workshops and a monthly car trunk sale.
4. The Donauinsel (Danube Island), Vienna
This long narrow island in central Vienna is not just part of the flood protection system but also offers 42 kilometers of beach. In addition to awesome flat beaches with great bathing areas, there are extensive networks of paths for cyclers, joggers and walkers. Barbeque and picnic areas, playing fields, courts for beach volleyball and a variety of restaurants and shops also make up this urban beach stretch. There is no shortage of activities to do and many sports shops have set up along the beach to offer lessons in such water sports as scuba diving and windsurfing. Also located on Danube Island is a nature reserve, home to many plants and animals that depend on the protection.
3. Badeschiff, Berlin
This urban beach is actually comprised of a few different elements, including an old tug boat that has been converted into a pool during the summer months. Swimmers here can catch a great glimpse of the Berlin skyline and take part in some epic beach parties. The floating pool is connected by a wooden footbridge complete with hammocks to relax in. Beach goers can relax on the fine sand or play beach volleyball at one of the sand courts. The beach bar here is known for offering up a variety of summer cocktails and barbecued foods. Peaceful morning yoga classes are offered here twice a week and weekly open air concerts are a norm during the summer months. A separate area for kids to splash and build sandcastles is located just a stone’s throw away from the main area.
2. Paris Plages, France
For just shy of a month in the summer time, the right bank of the Seine from the Louvre to the Pont de Sully is converted into one of the best urban beaches in all of Europe. Sand gets imported into the area, beach chairs are set up, grass is laid down and boardwalk-style cafes and ice-cream sellers set up shop. When the temperature really soars sprinklers are put out as you wouldn’t want to swim in the Seine. Free summertime concerts take place; sporting events are in full swing and everyone who can’t go on vacation flocks to this area to enjoy some sand, sun and relaxation. Entrance to the beach is free and the only thing you will have to worry about is scoring one of the oversized umbrellas to curl up underneath.
1. Brussels’ Beach, Brussels
Every year the banks of the Brussels channel are converted into a real urban beach, complete with imported sand, huts, sun chairs and fountains. This beach only lasts in the hottest months of summer, from July 15th to August 15th and the city goes all out to ensure visitors have the best of times. Activities here range from rowing to soccer to climbing to dancing while the kids will be entertained with magic shows and workshops throughout the day. The nights are meant for adults to kick back and enjoy with an offering of nightly concerts and parties. The city kicks off this month long urban beach with an impressive light and sound show and airs free films throughout the month on the big screen. Join locals and visitors alike at this urban beach, in our opinion, the best in all of Europe.
For all of you multi-taskers and fidgety folk: have you ever considered going on a holiday that would teach you something you didn’t know before? Travel (no matter where you go and what you see) inherently offers the opportunity to learn new things or to see things from a different perspective. But what if the purpose of your holiday was to acquire a new skill or further your education formally? Here is some food for thought to make your next holiday a learning adventure.
1. Salsa Dancing Holiday, Cuba
Even if you’ve got two left feet, there is no denying the lure of the beat of salsa music, especially if you are in a tropical destination. For your next holiday, why not jump in with both feet (left and other left) and take a Salsa Dancing Holiday? In Cuba, many all-inclusive resorts offer complimentary salsa lessons as part of the resort amenities, but there are a number of planned itineraries available through travel companies that will arrange for dance lessons in different venues and cities over the course of your two-week stay, as well as an opportunity to savor authentic Cuban cooking, lifestyle and of course, music. By the end of your holiday, you’ll be a dancing fiend!
2. Big Life Stretch, Spain
Travel opens up opportunities that you don’t have at home, so it stands to reason that if you are seeking to make a change in your life (advance in your career, improve your relationships or work towards that elusive work/life balance) that leaving your familiar surroundings might open your mind and usher in that change. The Big Life Stretch is a one-week retreat near Malaga, Spain in the mountains. You’ll spend a very reflective week, surrounded by nature. Guests participate in scheduled life coaching, and also learn techniques to embrace change, amplified by the natural setting.
3. Learn a Language, Around the World
Instead of stumbling around in a foreign country with a guidebook, trying out phrases, why not make learning the language the aim of the holiday? There are literally dozens of travel companies that offer language travel experiences and courses. You simply need to consider what language you’d like to learn, and where you’d like to go to learn it. Another thing to consider- how do you want to learn? While there is undeniable merit to classroom learning, why not take advantage of local learning opportunities to see your language of choice in action (and use it yourself- which is the real way to learn a language). Seek out travel companies that include field trips, and offer other leisure opportunities (i.e. wine tours, cycling tours, etc.) that will allow you to get the most immersive (and fun) experience that you can.
4. Surfing School, Canary Islands
Surfing is just cool- cool to watch and even cooler if you’re the one of the surfboard. While there are any number of surf destinations worldwide, beginners will appreciate having a school with hands on instructors and a holiday experience meant to help you learn to surf- but enjoy the destination as well. 7 Island Surf in the Canary Islands specializes in Beginner and Intermediate surf lessons (although they offer a range to appeal to different skill levels). All guests need to do is book their flights, and they take care of your accommodations and your lesson plans. They also offer Surf & Spa packages as well as Surf and Yoga/Pilates packages too.
5. Creative Writing Holiday, France
Got a novel or other piece of writing lurking inside of you? What better way to smash through that Writer’s Block then to visit a locale that is scenic and receive training to be a better (or to start as a) Creative Writer? Abri Creative Writing Holidays in the Cévennes Mountains of the Languedoc region in the South of France offers residential writing retreats and programs to cater to beginners and experienced writers alike. They specialize and offer support with professional tutors in all kinds of genres- from poetry to prose to memoirs. These holidays include food and accommodation, and are limited to 16 people to keep the setting intimate and muse-worthy.
6. Photography Holiday, Spain
Taking pictures is a major part of every holiday, but how many of us are any good at it? Why not take the opportunity on your next holiday to learn how to really capture your travel memories- on this trip and on every trip you take afterwards. In scenic Torrix, Spain, Awaken Holidays offers 8 day long all-inclusive vacations (room and board), photography workshops and personalized photography tours. Places this tour visit to photograph include traditional Spanish homes, the mountains, rock formations, and the sun rising over Lake Vineula.
7. Wild Cookery, Scotland
Everyone is familiar with cooking holidays, which are enormously popular, particularly in regions of Italy and France, where travelers flock to learn regional cooking in the most authentic way. If you are looking for a cooking holiday with a twist, consider the Wild Rose Outdoor Cookery and Foraging courses. Head out to the Scottish Highlands for the weekend, where you’ll forage for greens and other ingredients and learn about ancient ways of cooking outdoors, like fireside cookery, hot stones and pit cooking. Pit cooking is the original crock pot, where food simmers in its own juices for hours, and is excellent for cooking soups and stews.
There’s a reason that France ends up near the top of lots of travel bucket lists—the country is simply one of the most beautiful places in the world. Although many other places rival France for that title, the sheer variety of views in this western European country, from the heights of the Alps to the lush Loire Valley to the French Riviera, ensure that it maintains a spot near the top year after year. After all, how can you argue with views like these?
8. Aiguille du Midi
Let’s start with the tip-top of views in France. This one takes us high up in the French Alps, near Chamonix and Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps. Located near the Italian-French border, Mont Blanc is popular with tourists, skiers and climbers. It’s also the location of the Aiguille du Midi, the “needle” on the Mont Blanc massif. From here, 3,777 meters up, you can experience a wonderful view: a breathtaking panoramic view of Mont Blanc and the Alps. The ascent of the needle is equally breathtaking, as you’ll ride the world’s highest vertical ascent cable car. You’ll climb nearly 3,000 meters during your ascent. If you’re brave, chance a glance beneath you; even if you don’t dare look down, you can still enjoy the stunning views of the mountains as you climb up into the clouds.
7. Eiffel Tower
It’s hard to top the Aiguille du Midi, but even if it’s not as high, the Eiffel Tower is ultimately the most iconic view of France—and for good reason. Whether you’re standing atop the tower, at 324 meters, or viewing it from the Champ de Mars or even at the top of another building to catch that quintessential Parisienne cityscape, the Eiffel Tower is practically symbolic of France. The tower, which was originally built for the 1889 World’s Fair, was supposed to be torn down, but proved so popular that it’s been standing ever since. The tower provides an excellent observation point to see Paris from on high, which is beautiful both day and night. The tower itself is also an iconic part of the cityscape of Paris and is often illuminated at night. There’s a reason the tower remains the most visited paid monument in the world.
6. Mont Saint-Michel
Perhaps less known outside France, Mont Saint-Michel is considered to be the second-most iconic view of France, right after the Eiffel Tower. Located in Normandy, on an island about one kilometer from the coast, the Mont has held strategic fortifications since ancient times. The monastery that stands today was constructed in the 700’s and exemplifies the construction of society: God at the top, followed by the abbey and the men of the church who lived there, the great halls of nobles and finally, the laity, farmers and fishermen. Today, some 3 million people visit the island each year. Surrounded by water and looking out over the ocean, the Mont Sant-Michel has a stunning backdrop that makes its architecture all the more beautiful. The abbey is especially lovely at twilight as the sun sinks, the lights come on and the stars come out.
Provence is part of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region in France, a large area that encompasses the Alps, the French Riviera and much of the historical province of Provence. Provence didn’t become part of France proper until the late 1400’s and even today, the region retains a distinct cultural and linguistic identity. Much of Provence is still intensely rural and, although the province of Aquitane is renowned for its rich land, Provence’s Mediterranean climate makes it a prime area for growing wine grapes, olive trees for olive oil and lavender. At the height of summer, a trip through rural Provence showcases colorful crops, like these lavender fields in full flower, their rich purple color extending as far as the eye can see, under the warm Provencal sun. In some areas, medieval towns, churches and chateaux form the backdrop for these vibrant displays of color.
4. Dune Pilat
Looking at this image, you might imagine that we were somewhere in the Rub’ al-Khali or the largest desert in the world the Sahara Desert, where the sand dunes pile high, forming seas of sand that roll on under a bright blue sky. If someone told you that you were looking at southern France, you might not believe them—even though it’s true. This image is of the famous Dune du Pilat, the highest sand dune in all of Europe. About 60 kilometers from Bourdeaux, the currents and winds of the Atlantic have conspired to drop about 60 million cubic meters of sand along the coast, creating a dune that stands 110 meters above sea level. The dune attracts about 1 million visitors each year. Climbing to the top offers panoramic views of the seascape of the Aracachon Bay and La Teste-de-Buch, in the midst of the Landes forest, the largest maritime-pine forest in Europe.
3. Calanques National Park
Calanques are narrow, steep-walled inlets of limestone, dolomite or other carbonite strata, typically found along the Mediterranean coast. The best and most famous examples occur along a 20-kilometer stretch between Marseille and Cassis in France. In 2012, France created a national park to protect the Massif des Calanques in this region. The white limestone cliffs are craggy and drop off steeply into the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Get up to a higher vantage point by hiking through the area, then look down on calm waters, yachts and other pleasure craft traversing the area. If hiking and heights don’t suit your fancy, hop on a tour and cruise through the narrow inlets with the sheer cliffs rising on either side of the boat, blue waters beneath you and bright blue sky above you. It’s quintessential French Riviera—and quintessential Mediterranean.
2. Castle Hill, Nice
Speaking of quintessential views of the French Riviera, you can’t get much more typical than a view of the city of Nice from Castle Hill. Once used for military fortifications, nowadays the citadel is Nice’s most famous public garden and a popular spot for tourists, even considered a “must see” for the city. The citadel provides stunning panoramas of Nice, like this one that shows the Old Harbor; other views show the Promenade des Anglais. The view is spectacular at any time of day, from sunrise to sunset. Here the sea meets the sky, and palm trees line the white sandy beaches. The colorful houses are even brighter in the sunshine, adding to the view’s cheerful tone. This is the kind of picture that gets printed on postcards we send to jealous friends and relatives with a smug “wish you were here.”
Between the lush Loire Valley and the Pyrenees Mountains, the department of Dordogne in southwestern France might seem more fairy tale than reality. Part of the region of Aquitaine, the area lies along the Dordogne River and contains more than 1,500 castles, earning it the title of “the Other Chateau Country.” Pictured here is Chateau Beynac, one of the best-preserved medieval structures in the region. It overlooks the small town below, an imposing figure as you approach on the Dordogne River. On some mornings, the castle will be shrouded in mist, as in this photograph, lending it an aura of mystery and maybe even a bit of magic. The area has served as the location for several films and novels, including the 1998 film Ever After, an adaptation of the Cinderella story. This gorgeous view proves that France truly is a land of beauty and romance.
Since ancient times, Europe has been layered in history, and one of the best ways to see the culmination of different architectural styles is the famous castles. Many started out as medieval fortresses that served as strategic defense systems against nearby invaders. After the 15th century wars, royalty and aristocrats transformed many of the crumbling fortress into opulent, captivating pleasure chateaus that inspired Walt Disney and other famous fairy tale writers. From Rapunzel to Cinderella to Belle of Beauty and the Beast, discover the ancient medieval castles of Europe at these 10 stone fortresses.
10. Chateau de Chenonceau -Chenonceaux, France
Walt Disney drew inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World from several castles in Europe, including the Chateau de Chenonceau, the crown jewel of France’s Loire Valley. Situated on the river Cher in the small village of Chenonceaux, the chateau is one of the most visited private historical monuments in France. With its magical five arches and four corner turrets, it’s a lasting relic of medieval Gothic architecture with a touch of ornate Renaissance detailing. Such an enchanting palace is fit for Cinderella and Prince Charming, especially the moat filled with swans and richly decorate rooms with paintings by Rubens, Le Tintoret, and other great masters. Like a page out of a fairy tale, Chenonceau is a treasured castle of the Loire Valley and a testament to the passion and influence of the French Renaissance.
9. Windsor Castle -Berkshire, United Kingdom
Another quintessential fairy tale castle is Windsor Castle built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Today, the ancient medieval fortress is still the primary castle of the royal family. Although it suffered a fire in 1992, it was renovated a few years later and fully restored to its original glory, including Gothic turrets and towers, and romantic moat, all cornerstones of a fairy tale castle. The castle was also a favorite spot for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who were the first monarchies to open parts of the fortress to the public. Now, visitors have the chance of seeing the same rooms where royalty entertained top aristocrats and dignitaries. Head to Berkshire and begin the long walk to the enchanting castle, which is considered one of the finest examples of English Perpendicular Gothic architecture.
8. Chateau Fontainebleau -Loire Valley, France
You might recognize the towers, moats, and turrets of the Chateau Fontainebleau from Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, since Disney is noted to have drawn inspiration from this Loire Valley treasure. With its French Renaissance style architecture and famous horseshoe staircase, the castle is the perfect setting for princesses and visiting royalty. Today, France’s largest castle is a World Heritage Site and national museum where visitors can tour the boudoir of Marie-Antoinette, the throne room of Napoleon, and the apartment of the Pope. The Fontainebleau started out as a fortified castle in the 12th century. After the wars of the 15th century, castles were no longer a viable defense, so Francis I decided to rebuild the crumbling medieval fortress and transform it into a lavish pleasure palace in the 16th century. Later on it was taken over by Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici who continued to expand the chateau.
7. Prague Castle -Prague, Czech Republic
The city of Prague is full of some of the best-preserved medieval, Classical, and Renaissance architecture in Europe, making it a real life fairy tale town with Prague Castle as its crowning achievement. Situated on a hill overlooking the Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle is home to centuries-old myths and legends passed down through the generations. Popular Czech fairy tales were set here, including Dalibor’s Tower where the Knight Dalibor of Kozojedy was imprisoned. It also was the setting for Golden Lane, the age-old tale of alchemists trying to invent gold. Looming above the Vltava river, the castle overlooks the ancient city like a fairy tale fortress with spires, towers, and enormous palaces. Meander through the galleries, historic buildings, and museums to catch a glimpse of Prague’s most beloved national treasures.
6. Krivoklat Castle -Bohemia, Czech Republic
Krivoklat Castle in central Bohemia is classic fairy tale with its ancient towers, stone turrets, and Gothic detailing, making it an ideal setting for the movie The Brothers Grimm (2005). Built in the 12th century by Bohemian kings, it got several major overhauls by powerful members of the monarchy. Later on, the castle suffered some setbacks, including several fires that caused considerable damage. But luckily, Krivoklat has a fairy tale ending. During a wave of romantic époque in the 19th century, the family of Furstenberg saved the castle from ruin and had it rebuilt with a glorious mix of Gothic, Classical, and Neo-Renaissance styles. During that time, aristocrats all over Europe were transforming crumbling fortresses into lavish palaces, a trend that symbolized the lasting legacy of wealth and idealism of the Renaissance.
5. Chateau de Chambord -Loire Valley, France
After the wars of 15th century, the French aristocrats and royalty saw the idyllic countryside of the Loire Valley as the perfect spot for building extravagant pleasure castles, many which were Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World. In fact, the Chateau de Chambord is among them, particularly for its 16th century turrets, Gothic towers, Renaissance style detailing, and opulent interiors. If you look closely at Disney’s version, it looks very similar to Chambord, making it a real-life castle out of a fairy tale. Standing out against the lush, verdant landscape of the French countryside, the chateau contains all the fairy tale touchstones, including a swan-filled moat, hundreds of ancient frescoes, and fancywork ceilings. In its heyday, it drew 16th and 17th century A-listers, including visiting dignitaries and high society aristocrats.
4. Bran Castle -Transylvania, Romania
Commonly referred to as Dracula’s Castle, Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania, was the setting for the world famous Bram Stoker’s Dracula, making it a top destination in Europe. Built in 1211 as a customs post along the mountain pass from Transylvania to Walladia, it also served as a defense against the Ottoman Empire. Vlad Tepes, the real-life man characterized as Dracula, never actually resided in the castle but stayed in the dungeon for two days when the Ottomans invaded Romania. An exciting way to see the castle is by an authentic 19th century horse and carriage ride that will bring you through the countryside and to the Gothic gates of Dracula’s Castle. Once inside, get ready to enter an ancient, medieval world where time stands still.
3. Blenheim Palace -Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
Serving as the backdrop to Disney’s live action version of Cinderella starring Cate Blanchett, Blenheim Palace is considered England’s crowning glory and an architectural achievement of the ages. Built in the English Baroque style in the 18th century, the castle was commissioned to celebrate the victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. Designed by Sir John Vangrugh, the monumental country house is till home to the ancestors of the dukes of Marlborough who opened its doors to the public in 1950. The palace has had its share of ups and downs, particularly at the end of the 19th century when it was saved from ruin by the 9th Duke of Marlborough and restored to its former glory. The surrounding gardens are full of ancient oaks and tranquil moats, a classic example of English landscaping.
2. Mont Saint-Michel -Normandy, France
Situated in Normandy is Mont Saint-Michel, one of the most revered and culturally significant chateaus in France. It also inspired the depiction of Rapunzel’s castle in Disney’s animated feature Tangled. Like many castles in Europe, its origins can be traced back to medieval times when the island was a fortified defense system strategically located at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. Since the 10th century, the castle has undergone extensive renovations and rebuilding, the most significant construction in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 11th century, William de Volpiano, an Italian architect, designed the abbey in the Romanesque style followed by the building of Gothic elements in the 12th century. Opened year round, pilgrims, tourists, and locals travel here to see some of the best-preserved medieval architecture in Europe.
1. Neuschwanstein Castle -Fussen, Germany
Of all the enchanting fairy tale castles in Europe, Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen, Germany is one of Europe’s top destinations and the most-visited castle in the country. Built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, the architectural design was actually inspired by the fairy tale operas of world-renowned composer Richard Wagner. In fact, his ballet opera “New Swan Castle” was set at Neuschwanstein, which also inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle at Disney World. Also known as the “Fairy tale King,” Ludwig cherished Wagner’s fairy tales so much that he designed the castle and interiors based on his characters. In fact, when it was built in the 19th century, a time when European castles were no longer a strategic or viable defense, it was considered by many to be extravagant and over-the-top, even for a king. But today, the village of Fussen treasures its grand castle, which is now a major tourist destination.
It seems that France was created with hundreds if not thousands of opportunities to snap the perfect photo, as it is loaded with 2,000+ miles of shoreline, seven major mountain ranges and a slew of urban vistas, valleys and plains. Getting up high here is easy, as a rooftop is often just a short but steep climb away, as are the cliffs that are beckoning to be traversed. Prepare yourself for some of the most beautiful views from these seven different places around France.
7. Nice’s Colline du Château
It was once a fortified structure for military purposes that sat atop this 92m hilltop overlooking the Nice Bay but was destroyed in 1706 by order of Louis XIV. Nowadays the place has been turned into a park and garden, where locals come to hang out and where tourists stop to take in the incredible views. To reach the park visitors have a couple options, the first is to walk up montee Lesage and climbs the steps at the eastern end of rue Rossetti, while the second lets you take the elevator up from under Tour Bellanda. Either way you reach this park, expect views of the sapphire sea stretching out below you, the Baie des Anges and the old port. Complete with palm tress and promenades, this is quintessential Riviera.
6. Aiguille du Midi
The Aiguille du Midi is a 3842m peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps, and about as close as you can get to the summit of Mont-Blanc without actually hiking to it. It also happens to be one of the highest mountain peaks served by an aerial lift system. For those of you looking for one of the most stunning view in France, head to the center of Chamonix Town where you can catch a ride on the cable car. The cable car brings you to the summit terrace where you will have a clear view of Mont-Blanc and the surrounding mountains. If you dare, step out into the glass room that is suspended above the chasm for the ultimate experience. Also from the terrace visitors can get on-board the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car, which connects France to Italy offering astounding views along the 5km journey. The top station on the Italian side offers 360-degree views of the Mont Blanc massif.
5. Provence’s Villages
Provence is full of awe-inspiring views, green hills, tiled roofs, shimmering lakes and meadows bursting with lavender and sunflowers. Haut-de-Cagnes is one of the best-preserved perched villages and make sure you catch the view from above of the medieval city walls, stone archways and cobbled streets. Avignon on the other hand offers miles of lavender fields as well as an impressive view of the world’s most famous one-fifth of a bridge from Doms Rock. Sit yourself at anyone of the café tables in Gordes, Roussillon and Menerbes where you can watch the world pass by below, as well as look onto miles of green hills and tiled roofs, all while sipping an impressive glass of rose.
4. Calanques National Park
This National Park sits in the south of France between Marseille and Cassis and those visitors looking to take advantage of the best views here should hit the many hiking trails. There are about 12 walk able miles in this park that run along the coast, offering the best of views. Think steep-walled inlets the contain pools of sparkling seawater, sandy beaches that stretch on for miles and white limestone cliffs. Try to avoid visiting from June to September as the risk of fire is high and many of the beaches are closed. It is easy to pause along the trail and imagine that you are deep in the Caribbean as you look our onto the pale rocks and the color of the water that sparkles beneath the sunlight.
3. Le Mont Saint-Michel
It is one of France’s most recognizable landmarks, an island commune in Normandy that held strategic fortifications since ancient times, and has been the seat of the monastery since the 8th century AD. The abbey and monastery sit on top in a gravity-defying move while the great halls, stores and housing all fall below it. Visiting here shouldn’t be missed for a couple reasons. One is the view from the top out into the bay; on a sunny day visitors can see for miles and miles. Make sure to look down at the surrounding village while you are up there. The second view though is actually from afar, like many iconic buildings this Norman abbey is perhaps even more beautiful from a distance. At the turn of the 20th century a French politician even went for far as to call the seaside route by Champeaux, between Avraches and Granville, the “most beautiful kilometer in France”. Head to this vantage point on the northeastern coast of the Mont Saint-Michel Bay for a view that makes this look like a castle adrift in the sea.
2. Basilique de la Madeleine
For visitors looking to combine an incredible view with a sacred experience, make sure to head the Basilique Ste-Madeleine in Vezelay, one of the largest Romanesque churches in France. Pilgrims have been climbing the hill to the Abbey of la Madeleine for centuries, not just for the religious aspect but we imagine for the incredible views that await visitors at the top. Below stretching out are the green, blue and gray hills of Burgundy, overflowing with vineyards, rivers and forests that sprawl out as far as the eye can see. If you happen to visit during summer or winter solstice, a special view awaits you as the church was designed so that on midday on each solstice, nine pools of sunlight fall upon the exact center of the nave, forming a path of light leading to the altar.
1. The Eiffel Tower
Nothing screams France more than the Eiffel Tower, and it simply wouldn’t be a list of beautiful views without including this majestic looking building. It is seemingly perfect from every angle and we suggest viewing it at both day and night. In the evening there is no better view of it from a boat on the Seine, when the tower shimmers both above Paris and in its reflection in the river, helped by the sparkling lights that it puts off for five minutes every hour. The view from the Eiffel Tower also deserves special recognition. The third platform has one of the best views over Paris, stretching about 70km on a clear day, all the way to the outskirts of the capital. If you want finer detail of the city itself, head down to the second platform where you will see all of the city’s most famous monuments.
There are two ways to visit Europe, the first is with kids and although that seems overwhelming at first, this continent is actually quite kid-friendly. The second way to travel this beautiful continent is without kids, before you have them, and when you have all the time in the world. Whether you want to visit Europe to party, for a romantic getaway or to have the experience of a lifetime, there are hundreds of cities to do just that. These 8 places in particular though deserve a visit before you have kids. Think long strolls on the beach, the Eiffel tower at night and getting up close and personal with celebrities.
8. Paris, France
Known as one of the most romantic cities on the planet, there is no better time to visit Paris than before you have kids. It is truly a city where you want to embrace the clichés, whether you are strolling the streets hand in hand or taking a sunset boat ride down the Seine. Visit the Eiffel tower in the day and again at night when the lights are twinkling and it’s picture perfect. Take your time wandering through the amazing museums and ancient historic sites. Sip coffee at a sidewalk café and people watch for hours, or hole up in tiny boutique hotels where no children are allowed. Dine at five star restaurants, meander through the cobblestone streets and find romance in this city of love. Only then will you truly appreciate just how special it is.
7. Barcelona, Spain
Spain’s second largest city deserves two visits, one before you have kids and one with the kids in tow. There are so many things to see and do in this colorful city that is a mix of modern design and old-world charm. Visitors sans-kids will spend hours wandering through the outdoor European markets, window shopping and strolling through ancient city walls and stone corridors. The nightlife is alive in this city and whether you are looking for a vintage concert hall or the rapid rhythms of flamenco, you will find it here. The city’s wild side comes out in the wee mornings as party-goers hit the clubs sometimes as late (or as early) as 3am. Sun-drenched beaches beckon visitors to their shores, to hike, jog or simply swim in the deep blue waters. As you wind your way through hidden squares, fountains, and palaces along the Mediterranean; it will become abundantly clear why you got here before you had kids.
6. Munich, Germany
Germany’s unofficial southern capital flourishes throughout the year, but especially during the summer and Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is definitely the most famous celebration in Munich and everyone should plan on heading here once in there lifetime to celebrate, preferably without kids. This 16-day festival involves consuming a large quantity of Oktoberfest beer along with a mixture of attractions. Visitors will be privy to amusement rides, side stalls and games, traditional food, parties, parades and a slew of traditional Bavarian gear. If you are visiting the city outside of Oktoberfest time, make sure to take in the world-class art galleries and museums, churches, palaces and castles, and impressive parks.
5. Mykonos, Greece
It’s the party place in Greece, perfect for those looking to get one last shin dig in before having kids. It is here where you will find a mix of holidaymakers, cruise-ship crowds and fashionistas, all coming together for one great party. This whitewashed paradise is in the heart of the Cyclades and visitors should be prepared for beach bars, loud dance clubs and lots of people. If you want to explore the quieter side of this party island, head to Delos- a small uninhabited island that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its impressive archaeological sites. Or head to one of the many museums that dot this island. Little Venice and The Windmills is a popular spot to watch the sunset and grab a cocktail at one of the many outdoor bars/cafes.
4. Cilento, Italy
The Cilento coast is absolutely beautiful with its small bays, dramatic cliffs and seaside villages, and has this stuck-in-time feeling. It is one of the lesser-known areas in Italy and you won’t find throngs of tourists or really any kid-friendly activities, thus why visiting here before you have kids is the best choice. If you are after romantic isolation, head inland to the Cilento National Park where you will find incredible hiking trails and mountain inns that serve delicious wines and some of the best fresh mozzarella you will ever taste in your life. Famed for its orchids, streams and towering waterfalls, there is no shortage of beauty that will surround you in this park. The park also has a colorful history that is worth exploring while in the region.
This former Portuguese colony has grown to be one of the top gambling destinations in the world and if you want a vacation packed with glitz and glam before you have kids, this is the perfect destination. If you have deep pockets there is only one way to spend your money here and that is at the Grand Casino where you will gamble alongside the rich and famous, where the dress code is strict and the entry fees are high. Other than gambling though, Monaco offers its fair share of things to see including Monaco-Ville, a medieval village made up of pedestrian streets, century homes and picturesque buildings. There are a slew of exotic gardens to be found here, along with an art gallery, opera house and the Prince’s car collection. This is not a budget destination and thus is best done before kids, and at a time when you have some extra money to spend.
2. Cannes, France
It was once a small fishing village but is has turned into a glamorous and equally expensive seaside town in France, considered to be one of the social hubs of Europe. When this town shines the brightest though is in May as it plays host to the Cannes Film Festival, drawing the rich and famous to its shores from all over the world. Fans flock here to see actors, celebrities and directors on the famous steps of the Palais des Festivals at the end of La Croisette. If you prefer to visit the rest of the year, there are plenty of things to see and do. Walk the narrow winding streets of Old town where the view from the castle ruins at the top is excellent, or head to one of the beaches to soak up the sun. Dine at one of the local restaurants serving up regional fresh produce sourced directly from the markets.
1. Berlin, Germany
Move over New York City, Berlin is the city that truly never sleeps; a city full of Germans who love nothing more than a good time. This is a great city to visit before having kids, as it is full of iconic sites, sky bars, chic restaurants, boutique hotels and a party that literally never stops. It is here where you can take in top international performers at theaters or concert and opera stages. Berlin is a city full of museums, artists and a colorful history, where modern architecture and historical buildings meet. There is an endless amount of shopping, parks to explore, open-air cinemas, beach bars, forests and more here. The relaxed vibe of this city will enthrall you, suck you in and make you never want to leave. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
While it is very easy to spend a lot of money when staying at a nice hotel there are some places around the world that have world class service and rooms that easily fit into any budget. With a little searching you can find hotels that offer luxury accommodations, great facilities and locations. Next time you are looking to get away for a weekend getaway, head out on a business trip or even once in a lifetime family trip, you don’t have to settle for a small room in a substandard hotel because you are afraid it might break your budget. Take some of these suggestions for amazing hotels that you can book for under $100 a night.
15. Chatrium Hotel Riverside -Bangkok, Thailand
The Chatrium Hotel Riverside is a multiple award winning hotel located adjacent to the Chao Phraya River, just 30 km from the International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. A Grand Room with a city view is under $80 and comes with a private balcony. At 60 sq. meters the room comes complete with a kitchenette and dining area, coffee and tea making facilities, bathrobe and slippers. The hotel offers a business center that includes everything necessary if you just can’t leave work behind. A 35 meter infinity pool overlooking the river with an outdoor Jacuzzi awaits along with a fully equipped fitness center. Head to the Nemita spa on the ground floor and get a relaxing massage or do pick up some items in the shops. Also on the premises is a Starbucks Coffee Shop and the Saizen Japanese Restaurant. The hotel also has facilities for meetings and weddings.
14. Sri Bungalows -Ubud, Bali
For under $100 you can book a suite at the Sri Bungalows. The bungalows located in Ubud Bali comes with handsomely appointed suites with a private balcony overlooking the rice terraces. The rooms are stylishly appointed and other facilities include two swimming pools, restaurant and full service spa so you can enjoy a Balinese massage. The bungalows cover two floors and are surrounded by gardens and terraces. The hotel is only a short walk to the Ubud Market and the Monkey Forest. For a relaxing stay in a tropical paradise the price is hard to beat.
13. Radisson Blu Hotel -Cebu, Philippines
Located in the second largest city in the Philippines, Cebu is a popular destination because of the proximity to beautiful beaches and laid back lifestyle. The number one rated hotel in Cebu can also be had for under $100. The Radisson Blu, located 11 kilometers from the International Airport is conveniently located near all the popular tourist sights. With rooms offering goose feather pillows and duvets the Radisson will surely please. The hotel’s restaurant, Feria, offers both à la carte options and a buffet and with five master chefs the food runs the gamut of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean and International cuisines. The hotel has a large tropical pool outside along with a fully equipped state of the art fitness center and spa. For those staying in a business class room or suite the business class lounge is open daily. The hotel also has a 180 seat lobby bar a pool bar and a tea bar serving 21 different teas from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and South Africa.
12. Riad Viva -Marrakech, Morocco
Located in the city center, 15 minutes from the airport, the Riad Viva Hotel offers visitors a relaxing stay in beautifully appointed rooms. The hotel offers guests a wide range of amenities including free WiFi, 24 hr. room service and airport transfers. With a combination of Moroccan style and luxurious amenities guests can be assured of a royal stay. The hotel has a pool along with a steam room and restaurant. The friendly staff can also help in arranging tours to the Ourika Valley, a Berber village, the magical city of Essaouira or point you to the best shopping in town. You can also check out the cooking classes offered by the hotel so you can learn how to use all those aromatic spices and flavors to impress your friends when you return home.
11. Hilton Anatole -Dallas, Texas
You don’t have to travel half way around the world to get a good hotel deal. The Hilton Anatole in Dallas offers the business traveler or visitor to the city comfortable rooms with all the amenities. A room with a King Size bed can be had for under $90 and has just about everything you need as a traveler. The hotel has a full business center and conference facilities and also offers an ATM, currency exchange, clothing store, onsite convenience store and concierge serve. Feel like getting a little exercise? Head to the Verandah Club with fully equipped fitness center, 25 meter lap pool, cross training and boxing gym or enjoy racquet ball the jogging track or basketball courts. The V Spa is the perfect place to get a relaxing massage or spa treatment. In addition to room service there are 5 dining establishments at the hotel including SĒR Steak + Spirits serving up tender steaks and fresh seafood on the 27th floor.
10. Hotel Paseo Del Arte -Madrid, Spain
Located just a 100 meters from the Atoche Train Station, the Hotel Paseo Del Arte is a 4 star hotel in the heart of Madrid. Comfortably appointed rooms are tastefully furnished and offer a panoramic view of the interior garden or the city. Complete with desk, free WiFi, flat screen TV with international channels, and marble bathroom guests are in the perfect spot to explore the city. The hotel has a fitness facility, shops, coffee shop and bar. The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and along with regional and international cuisine. With 260 rooms the hotel is less than 15 km to the airport making it easily accessible. The hotel is located in the area known as the Arts Triangle and within walking distance to several museums, parks, shopping, restaurants and the famous Madrid nightlife.
9. Century Plaza Hotel and Spa -Vancouver, B.C.
The Century Plaza Hotel and Spa is a family owned and operated located in the center of downtown Vancouver. The hotel prides itself on providing the best service possible. With a business center, conference facilities and indoor pool, the Century Plaza is the perfect place for business travelers and families visiting the city. Since opening the Absolute Spa at Century Plaza Hotel 12 years ago, the Spa has received over 50 awards and is the favorite of celebrities like Zac Effron, Elle McPherson and Gwyneth Paltrow when in town. With an ozonated swimming pool, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation lounge the Spa is the perfect place to get pampered. The hotel also features the C Prime Italian Steak and Wine Restaurant. Using locally sourced meats, vegetables and seafood Chef Bruce Woods has made the restaurant one of the hottest destinations in Vancouver. A coffee shop, salon and Vancouver’s iconic comedy club The Comedy Mix are also available to guests.
8. Sana Hotel -Berlin, Germany
The Sana Hotel is a 4 star Superior Class hotel located on the west side of Berlin. With 203 rooms including suites and apartments the Sana offers a wide choice of accommodations. A double room can be booked for less than $100 and prices go up from there. Facilities include a breakfast room, restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine, two bars, terrace garden, fitness center and massage services. The F8/eight Bar & Lounge seats 50 and guests can relax with fine wines and spirits while listening to live jazz. A smoking bar also exists for those that enjoy a fine cigar. In addition to massage services the wellness area on the 7th floor offers an indoor swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. The Sana Hotel is also centrally located for sightseeing with the Brandenburg Gate less than 5 km. away, as well as the zoo, museums and cultural facilities being nearby.
7. The Signature at MGM Grand -Las Vegas, Nevada
Located just off the famed Las Vegas Strip, The Signature at MGM Grand offers an elevated level of personalized service. Luxuriously appointed suites start at just under $100 and have all the amenities you might expect in luxury hotels costing much more. With a private pool complete with personal cabana and in suite spa services to the spacious suites with granite and marble bathrooms and kitchenettes the hotel does everything possible to pamper the guests. The hotel concierge will ensure you get tickets to the best shows and hard to get restaurant reservations and has a gourmet delicatessen on the premises. Whether you are hitting the Las Vegas Strip, spending the day golfing or seeing the sights you can relax and unwind in your private suite at night and get the rock star treatment from a dedicated staff that does everything the ensure you have the ultimate Las Vegas experience.
6. Golden Tulip Amsterdam West -Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is known for offering cheap backpacker accommodations with over 180 hostels in the city. For those not wanting budget sleeping arrangements with noisy neighbors there is an alternative. Conveniently located to Schiphol Airport and the city center the Golden Tulip Amsterdam West makes exploring the city easy. With rates under $100 you can have the comfort of a spacious room with heated floors, a rain shower and free internet access. Comfortably appointed rooms have been designed to be soundproof so guests can get a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by the wild Amsterdam nightlife. The buffet restaurant seats 300 and is open for breakfast and dinner and the modern bar is a great place to relax and have a cocktail, cup of coffee or a slice of homemade pie. The tram stop is a mere 50 meters from the hotel for easy commute to the famous sights such as the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum.
5. Relais Spa Chessy Residence -Paris, France
Visitors to Paris know hotels and pretty much everything else can be pricey. With a little searching you can find gems such as the Relais Spa Chessy Residence near Disneyland Paris. A premium room with free WiFi, unlimited spa access and shuttle to Disney Land can be scooped up for under $100. The rooms have a small office area and a discreet kitchen with hot plate. Hotel amenities include pool, steam room, sauna, gym and spa treatments. The Franklin Bar makes for a cozy place to relax with friends for a drink while the Brasserie Flo restaurant serves up sophisticated French cuisine. The hotel staff strives to ensure each guest gets the VIP treatment.
4. Chateau Victoria -Victoria, B.C.
Sitting on the location of a former mansion the Chateau Victoria is a boutique hotel offering a touch of opulence to guests. The hotel has a colorful past due to a parrot that inherited the old mansion that previously stood there and some swear they have seen the well-dressed ghost of Victoria Jane, the previous mansion owner, roaming the halls. Whether you see a ghost or not one thing you can be assured of. The hotel goes out of the way to make to feel comfortable and the rooms complete with free WiFi and big comfortable beds await the tired traveler. The hotel’s Vista 18 restaurant offers regional cuisine and has an extensive wine list. The hotel bar, Clive’s Classic Lounge, has been listed as one of the top hotel bars by several publications. The hotel offers in room spa treatments and massages and the hotel has a lap pool, hot tub and fitness center.
3. Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba -Tokyo, Japan
While Tokyo has its share of pod hotels, where you get to sleep in what resembles a submarine torpedo tube, there are other options. One such option is the Grand Nikko Tokyo Diaba Hotel, a 5 star resort located just 20 minutes from Haneda International airport on 15 minutes from downtown Tokyo. A superior Double room can be booked for under $100 during the week and the hotel comes with such amenities as an outdoor terraced swimming pool with fantastic views of Tokyo, a wellness salon, acupuncture center and has a medical clinic on the premises. The hotel fitness center is fully equipped and has trainers on staff and the hotel has several shops on site. There are eight restaurants at the resort including sushi, Chinese and Italian and the Ruy Lopez Bar stocks liquor from around the world along with fine cigars.
2. Lancaster House -Bogota, Colombia
Lancaster House in Bogota Colombia is a boutique hotel designed in the art deco style. The 4 star hotel has two bars, restaurant, gym and sauna. Gatsby Restaurant serves traditional Colombian and International food while the more relaxed Bistro 106 is a great place to relax and get a lighter meal or dessert. Relax in the piano bar with a game of billiards or a cocktail before heading up to your luxurious room. The Junior Suite comes equipped with a living and dining area, work space and kitchen. The hotel also offers a mobile spa service so guests can book a massage or just relax in the sauna. Located in an upscale neighborhood close to embassies and near the major shopping areas the Lancaster is centrally located for easy access to all the city has to offer.
1. Kaani Village and Spa -Maldives
The Kaani Village and Spa located in the beautiful Maldives offers guests a pampered option to staying at a discounted beach hotel. With a Double Deluxe room overlooking the pool that comes with a breakfast included the hotel makes a perfect base to enjoy the island. The Sampa Spa at the hotel offers tradition Thai massage as well as aroma massages performed by two masseuses at once. The hotel has a pool and restaurant and the hotel staff can arrange activities such as fishing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, snorkeling or an island tour complete with picnic. Rated number 3 out of 40 small boutique hotels by TripAdvisor the Kaani Village and Spa does everything possible to pamper guests and make your stay memorable.
From base-jumping and snowboarding to canyoning and bouldering, check out these beautiful natural spots where adrenaline junkies get their daily fix of death-defying stunts. Ranging from extreme to family friendly, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime at the 10 best spots around the world.
10. Underground Tubing
Also called blackwater rafting, get ready for the underground adventure of a lifetime at the Waitomo caves in New Zealand, a major tourist attraction in the North Island. Cave tubing is a great way to see up close the glowworms and ancient rock formations in a series of caves found in the northern King Country region. Formed on Oligocene limestone, the caves are an exciting family friendly activity that will make unforgettable memories. For the more adventurous, specialized tourism companies can take you on an extreme cave crawl that leads to spots rarely seen by the crowds.
9. Zip Lining
With the popularity of eco-tourism in Costa Rica, zip lining is often included as part of the tour. Traversing a treetop incline by a pulley is also a great way to see the lush rainforest. Feel like a bird gliding along the horizon as you make your way across Selvatura Park. The zip tour is full of lush, breathtaking scenery, but adrenaline junkies should head to Sun City, South Africa for the world’s longest, fasted zip-line. The Zip 2000 is an intoxicating thrill ride blasting across the safari at 100 mph. It might seem dangerous but Zip 2000 (www.zip2000.co.za) has boasted a 100% safety record since it opened in 2004. It’s also open to kids 12 and up, making it a thrilling family adventure. Zip-lining enthusiasts claim that it feels just like flying, not freefalling like on bungees and parachutes.
With coasteering, thrill seekers can get their fix of adrenaline on the edge of the world, literally. Head to Pembrokeshire, Wales, the rocky and precarious coastal cliff that is a top spot for extreme outdoor adventures. In a series of swimming, diving, and climbing trails, coasteering involves traversing the rocky coastline on foot and without the aid of watercraft. There are several coasteering outfits that offer guided tours across the windswept coastline, so get ready for a day full of cliff jumping, rock climbing, and swimming in the waves. Coasteering may seem like a sport for daredevils, but with the proper safety equipment and expert guides leading the way, even kids can do it, making it ideal for an outdoor family adventure against a backdrop of breathtaking coastal cliffs.
Also called river trekking, this rugged outdoor sport encourages the use of climbing techniques and equipment to rappel and climb rugged canyon terrain. The best places for canyoning are mountains with flowing water like The Grand Canyon in Arizona, which contains breathtaking scenery and some of the steepest canyons in the world. A good place to start is on a mountain with flowing water where you can follow a local expert through a tour of cascading waterfalls, windswept boulders, and trickling streams. Another popular spot for canyoning is in Norway and its Scandinavian fjord country. Armed with a wetsuit, helmet, and climbing gear, get an up close look at the Jostedal glacier as you swim, climb, and rappel your way across the Sognefjord, one of nature’s best obstacle courses.
Bouldering, also known as climbing without safety equipment, can be as daring or dangerous as you want it. For thrill-seekers, it’s just you and thousands of feet below, so one wrong move and game over. Even so, that hasn’t stopped this popular sport from becoming a possible competition in the 2020 Olympics. Ranging from 10 to 25 feet, the boulders are quite a challenge, especially without any ropes or safety nets. Instead, climbers must rely on their skills and fearlessness to conquer the boulders one precarious step at a time. Popular spots for extreme bouldering is the lower Sierra Nevada Mountain range in Bishop, California, the giant Rocklands of South Africa, and the forests of Fontainebleau in France.
If you have nerves of steel, get ready for the ultimate thrill as you ascend ice formations with nothing more than an ice pick and a will to live. Adrenaline junkies use Colorado’s Ouray Ice Park (www.ourayicepark.com), the world’s only park devoted to this extreme winter sport. Situated within walking distance of the town of Ouray, the ice park is a man-made climbing area in a natural gorge. Free and open to the public, the park also offers a range of climbs from easy and moderate to high-level. Depending on experience and skill level, there are many climbs to choose from, including the Kids Climbing Park and the Scottish Gullies for the more advanced ice-climber. So, get your axe in gear and head to the San Juan mountain range and the spectacular, rugged terrain of the Rockies.
4. Bungee Jumping
Bungee jumping is a classic adrenaline rush go-to because if it’s a bridge and it’s high up, why not jump off it? Plus, even the craziest daredevils feel somewhat protected by the bungee cord, the only thing between a stunt of a lifetime and certain death. One of the most popular jumps is at Macau Tower, the highest commercial jump established by Kiwi entrepreneur and professional daredevil AJ Hackett. Since the 90s, adventure seekers have traveled to this adrenaline-making mecca for the thrill of their lives. Located on the mainland of China in Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia, the 765-ft jump is in the Guinness World Records as the Highest Commercial Bungee Jump in the world.
3. Cave Diving
If you can handle the real dangers of freshwater cave diving, get ready to dive deep into an underwater hole in the earth for an up close look at ancient stalactites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, an area known for containing the world’s largest concentration of sinkholes. Surrounded by a lush tropical rainforest, plunge into the dark inner depths of crystal-clear turquoise waters. Another popular spot for thrill-seekers is Ginny Springs State Park in High Springs, Florida, one of the most dangerous cave dives in the world. On the way to the network of caves, some as big as two football fields, there are signs covered in skull and crossbones and with the ominous warning, “People have died here.” Even so, it’s one of the top cave diving destinations in the world for its extensive system of caves and caverns.
2. Sky Jumping
Popularized by Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, sky jumping is the ultimate thrill. Instead of jumping out of a plane, adrenaline junkies head to the nearest giant cliff and jump off, gliding into the air with the help of a winged bird-like suit. A favorite spot for this extreme sport is the mountains of New Zealand, a region known for its large population of extreme sports enthusiasts. The sport involves a wing suit, which is designed to help you glide through the air in a death-defying free fall and then finally the deployment of a parachute. This activity is perfect for sky divers who want to take the next step in their daily adrenaline fix. Only the most experience skydivers should attempt this. In fact, it is recommended that participants have at least 200 free fall sky dives under their belt before they take the plunge.
Heli-skiing is so dangerous it’s outlawed throughout Europe, but for the extreme adrenaline junkie, Alaska and the wild frontier of the Chugach Mountains is a popular spot for one of the most daring stunts. Considered to have the world’s deepest, softest powder, the Chugach peaks are an ideal spot to reach treacherous skiing slopes, ones that are so high and rugged that they can only be reached by helicopter. Only advanced skiers and snowboarders should try it, but for those looking for the ultimate thrill, there are several local outfits that can get you to the colossal vertical gorges and inspiring snow-capped peaks. Now is the time to channel your inner Bodhi from Point Break because “If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.” No pressure.