The Most Colorful Destinations In The World

There are many ways a place can delight the senses. The majestic height of a mountain. The power of a waterfall. The overpowering silence in the serenity of the wilderness. The raucous sounds of the jungle or an outdoor opera in a Roman amphitheater in Provence. But perhaps because it’s the most easily reproduced in the mind, the most indelible memories of all are the color of privileged moments in impossibly beautiful places. Waves crashing on shores sound the same everywhere. But the pristine blue and white of a beach on the Maldives shine forever. The fields of Lavender in Grasse do not need a photo to produce a fond recollection. Nor does the flaming orange sun melting into the Andaman Sea. It is not only natural phenomena that can take your breath away. The brilliant hues of the Sistine Chapel or the calliope of colors in the famous bazaars of Morocco never fade however old they become. No less a brand than the Smithsonian has diversified into a number of different revenue streams, including travel. Their stable of experts has designed tours on many different themes, one of which is The Most Colorful Destinations. None of the above are included, which, if nothing else, goes to show the Smithsonian experts don’t know everything. Doubtless, many of you will have other sites of color lodged in your hippocampus. No one is saying there are the only colorful places on Earth. But they make for a pretty good start.

10. Northern Lights, Thingvellir, Iceland

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The ghostly glow of the elusive aurora borealis have fascinated people for millennia. The celestial light show is caused by the collision of gas particles in the atmosphere. Named for the Roman Goddess of the Dawn, they can be best seen in remote northern locales, the renowned travel writer Bill Bryson chose Hammerfest Norway to see them recounts being bored stiff for days before he did. The Smithsonian picks Thingvellir, with its UNESCO World Heritage site National Park and ION Hotel with its neo-Scandinavian cuisine and more importantly, floor to ceiling windows in case of a sudden outburst in the sky. Seekers are at the mercy of weather not even all the Smithsonian experts in the world can control but prime time is said to be March-September.

9. Keukhenhof Gardens, Amsterdam, Holland

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The lovely myth about the origin of tulips is that they sprang from the Turkish steppes watered by the tears of a jilted lover. They originated there, were imported by the Danish Ambassador to Constantinople, and were the subject of the world’s first speculation bubble. The Dutch have raised them to an art form and Keukenhoff’s seven million, multi-hued blooms are rightly called The Greatest Flower Show on Earth.” New strains are bred every year and there are orchids, roses, lilies, and other blooms on display in the idyllic 79-acre park complete with ponds, streams, and landscaped pathways. It dates from the 15th-century herb garden tended by a countess in a nearby castle. A truly intoxicating experience for memorable sights and scents. A feast for the eyes and nose sounded a little clunky, don’t you think?

8. Cinque Terre, Italy

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Imagine a Friendly Italian Giant with a basket of gelato colored houses sprinkled the perch impossibly on the sheer cliffs of an ancient blue sea. That would be Cinque Terre (CHINK-way TERE-ah) or Five Lands, 5 fishing villages really dating from the 7th century until modern times linked only by the sea and a narrow footpath which makes a lovely hike for the many tourists who seek the place’s colorful charm and quiet. There is a train but no cars. High up the thigh of the Italian boot in the west coast region of Liguria which also gave the world pesto. Monterosso is the oldest and biggest, Vernazza the prettiest. The trail isn’t climbing Everest but it’s no walk in the park either with lots of ups and downs. A short boat ride south lies Portovenere with the same style of colorful building but a few stories higher than those of Cinque Terre.

7. Ngorongoro, Tanzania 

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The size and diversity of the herds who make the Great migration to this conservation area are staggering. Millions of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and Cape buffalo with lions, leopards, and cheetahs on the heels move to summer feeding grounds in the Tanzanian grasslands. The Ngorongoro (Masaai “Gift of Life”) Crater is a sanctuary for a wide variety of animals, birds of all kinds of sport, stripes, and hues, set with the rich colorful flora of the savannah and forests 2000 feet below the plain. Watch for the rare black rhinoceros and witness the splash of pink of flamingos, the golden straw-colored bristles on crowned cranes, the ostrich feathers that were once the height of fashion for European women. Even the traditional clothing of the Maasi appear to be in full bloom. An entire ecosystem like no other.

6. Monteverde, Costa Rica

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Another stunning, stellar ecotourism destination. Pound for pound acre for acre, few places offer more exotic biodiversity and natural beauty than Cost Rica. The Biological Reserve is a gorgeous cloud forest. A rich green canopy itself covered in mist sheltering a pristine paradise for birders and floraphiles. The Smithsonian itinerary says to expect to me “100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds (including 30 kinds of hummingbirds), and 2,500 species of plants (including 420 kinds of orchids), including the fascinating transparent Glasswing butterfly and the almost mythical brilliantly plumed resplendent quetzal. The quetzal was considered sacred in some Central American cultures. Though it sings and flies poorly, Mayan legend holds that the bird once sang with aching beauty but went silent at the brutal Spanish conquest of the 16th century. It prophesied the singing would resume when the land and people regain their complete freedom.

5. Forbidden City, Beijing

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Though it may seem overmatched by transparent butterflies and Dutch tulips, the Forbidden City’s distinctive yellow roof tiles and iconic architecture are a fac9nating study in the historical and cultural significance of color. It lives on in one of the most relentlessly urbanizing cities anywhere, the largest surviving enclave of ancient wooden structures in the world a miracle that it still stands. Forbidden because no one was allowed to come or go without the express permission of the Emperor. The Yellow is in fact the color reserved for the Emperors’ buildings and clothes dating back to the Tang Dynasty of the 7th century. Red is the symbol of good fortune and despite the unspeakable horrors leaders have inflicted on their people, no other colorful setting is so deeply entrenched in a peoples’ ethos.

4. Machu Picchu, Peru

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There may be no more compelling sight to be had in this lifetime than dawn over the long-abandoned, still mysterious Incan site of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes with a foreboding grey sky and the Andean peaks as background. The United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural Organization calls it “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization.” Built by 1450, abandoned a century later, and undiscovered by Europeans in 1911The green of the land with the color of ancient stone set in an altitude in which hotels offer complimentary oxygen is like a Sistine Chapel in the sky.

3. Jatiluwih, Indonesia

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The color green is most often associated with Ireland. But that is with respect to a Eurocentric view. There may be no greener place on earth than the spectacular terraced rice fields of Bali. In Bali rice is not just another carb. It is a gift from the Gods and treated with great reverence. The Jatiluiwih fields are unforgettable, faultlessly manicured, bursting tropical green irrigated by the water by a lake so sacred, that even thinking, swimming or boating is sacrilegious.

2. Strasbourg, France

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Actually this lovely old city, now the capital of the European Union is the culmination of a cruise along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers which includes Christmas markets in beautiful historic towns such as Koblenz and Bernkastel. Strasbourg’s city center is yet another UNESCO Heritage Site and home to “Christkindelsmärik”, France’s oldest and Europe’s largest holiday market, dating from 1570. The decorated late Renaissance-era buildings are unforgettable with the backdrop of Notre Dame Cathedral recalling centuries-old celebrations. Stalls offer locally crafted Christmas artifacts as well as delicious food and wine from one of the great culinary capitals of the world. A splendid colorful gourmet Christmas with legendary Alsatian wines without the December deepfreeze. Strasbourg’s average temperature at that time of year is 37 Fahrenheit. A feast for the eyes and palate of any faith.

1. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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A teeming self-contained ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world. Home to a kaleidoscope of the brilliantly colored underwater life of fish, turtles, and the coral of the Reef itself.  Especially worthy of the top spot here because it sadly ranks highly as one of the most threatened by climate change. An incredible 1600 miles of coral, it is a staggering thought that this is the largest structure in the world created and inhabited by living organisms. From the smallest tropically colored fish the whales and dolphins, it could very well be Mother Nature’s most sublimely rendered palette of color. It has been compared to a rainforest of the sea.

The 6 Worst Airline Disasters of 2015

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

6. Indonesian Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules

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

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

5. Syrian Air Force An-26 Crash

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

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

4. TransAsia Airways Flight 235

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

LauraKick / Shutterstock.com
LauraKick / Shutterstock.com

3. Trigana Air Service Flight 257

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

Photo by: Wikipedia
Photo by: Wikipedia

2. Germanwings Flight 9525

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

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

1. Kogalymavia Flight 9268

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

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

The Top Countries You Can Visit For Less Than $50 a Day

With more people traveling around the world, countries are getting even more expensive to visit. Despite popular beliefs, it is possible to pick the right place where you can stretch your dollar for days, even weeks. Doing your research, opting for public transportation, and eating in local spots will all go a long way to helping you stick to your budget.

10. Thailand

Despite its popularity, Thailand has remained one of the cheapest countries to visit over the years. The north side of the country is definitely cheaper than Bangkok and the islands but you will be hard-pressed to spend more than $50 a day. Rooms go for about $6-10 per day and a meal from a local restaurant will run you $5. The picture-perfect islands are even a bargain here, provided you don’t want to stay in a luxury resort. Local buses are cheap, beers are cheap and activities and sightseeing rarely runs you over $15. It is no wonder Thailand remains a hugely popular destination for budget travelers and although many continue to flock here, there is still plenty to explore without being engulfed in the crowds.

Phang Nga Bay Thailand

9. Greece

Greece has always been a bit of a budget traveler’s paradise when it comes to Europe. The fall of the economy in Greece has only made it more affordable to visit. Whether you are choosing to visit one of the islands or the mainland, there are bargains to be found. In the past few years, tourism has actually been on the decline of this beautiful country and has dragged the low prices even lower. Street vendors will sell you fresh delicious gyros for under $3 where a huge lamb meal complete with local alcohol might run you $10. Hotels and rooms can be as cheap as $20 a night and take local buses to save even more. Stay away from the touristy islands to save on accommodations and meals and choose to visit the roads less traveled.

Athens, Greece

8. Peru

Peru is one of South America’s liveliest and friendliest countries and it just so happens to be one of the cheapest to travel in. Although most travelers come here for the Inca trail, Peru is absolutely loaded with other things to see and do. Stay in a hostel for around $10 or splurge for a guesthouse that will run you $25 a night. Sit down meals are rarely over $5 and the local intracity buses cost around $1. What costs the most in this country are the activities you do. Book last minute specials when you arrive in Peru to visit Machu Picchu at half price or explore other ruins of Inca destinations for less. Hit the deserted white sand beaches, sail the Amazon and explore a beautiful country full of happy and funny people.

Lima Peru

7. Romania

Romania is the perfect country to experience old-world charm at half the price. Although many people associate this country as a decrepit ex-Communist nation, Romania is actually full of awesome things to discover. This Eastern European country offers medieval villages, castles and beautiful countryside. The time to travel here is holiday season which is the low season where you can stay for even cheaper. Expect to pay around $10 for a room and $5 for most meals. Entrance to the museums and galleries are quite cheap at $5-10 and makes for a perfect way to explore the cities. Try to stick to the smaller towns here as the touristy ones can charge double or triple for rooms and meals. If you have always wanted to explore Europe but found the price point to be high, try hitting up Romania for the ultimate European adventure.

Radu Bercan / Shutterstock.com
Radu Bercan / Shutterstock.com

6. Portugal

The cheapest place to visit in Western Europe is the beautiful and lively country of Portugal. Beaches, wine country, historical cities, and towering cliffs make it an exciting place to discover. Dorm beds can be found for about $20 a night and an even cheaper option is to camp as this country is home to spotless campgrounds located right on the beach. Meals can be a bit pricey and the bigger cities such as Lisbon often offer the most affordable food choices. Lisbon also happens to be one of the most affordable cities to stay in a five-star hotel, just in case you feel like splurging for a night. Take advantage of the free admission days that most cities offer with access to museums and galleries, ride the cheap and efficient public transit systems and enjoy this wonderful country at an extremely low price.

Porto Santo, Portugal

5. Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries on this list to visit and much like its neighboring country of Thailand it offers rich history, great cuisine, and a good nightlife.  This country is also less developed and less explored and therefore comes in even cheaper than Thailand. A fully private room in a typical hostel with air conditioning will only cost you about $8 a night where a typical hotel room with A/C will only run you $15-20. Food is even cheaper, most costing $2 for local food and $6-8 for a more typical Western meal. Even exploring the jungles, the cities, and the ruins won’t cost you a lot. With some of the nicest people around and raw rugged beauty at every turn, it is easy to understand why travelers often call this country their favorite. You will be hard-pressed to spend $50 a day here unless you want to live like a king.

Cambodia Floating Market Seller

4. Nicaragua

It’s the largest country in Central America but one of the least discovered and therefore extremely cheap to travel in. That is until it becomes more popular like neighboring Costa Rica. For now, though it is easy to make your way through the country experiencing the lively people, colorful towns, surfing, wildlife and volcano trekking that will keep you entertained for weeks and all for the cost of less than $50 a day. Sleep in a hammock for $5 or splurge for a room with a bathroom for $20. Food costs just mere dollars whether you are eating from a street vendor or local restaurant. Getting around is cheap and easy, either by using local buses or hopping in the back of a local truck, an ever-popular choice with locals and visitors alike. Stay away from the touristy area of San Juan del Sur as prices tend to be inflated and there are more beautiful beaches and jungles to the north.

Nicaragua

3. Indonesia

This beautiful chain of islands looks to be expensive with its stunning blue waters and silky sands. But don’t let the pictures fool you. If you can get away from the more touristy places it is actually quite affordable to travel within the country. In fact, it’s the plane ticket to get here that costs so much. The touristy south near Ubud and Kuta are where visitors will want to avoid, as they are full of dirty beaches and overpriced resorts. Head to the rather unexplored areas instead and it is easy to find a room in a hostel or guest house for less than $4 a night. Street food will only cost you a couple of dollars where a restaurant meal may run you $6. For well under $50 a day you will find rice terraces, black and white sand beaches, volcanoes, food markets, and jungles.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

2. India

India is extremely cheap to travel to and instead of asking how one should survive on $50 a day most people ask how they can do it on $20 a day. Yes, it is possible. Local Indian vegetarian food is the way to stick on budget with the occasional splurge on meat and you can bank on spending no more than $10 a day total on food. Rooms can be found for about $5 a night. Take rickshaws instead of taxis and local buses. The flight to India is definitely the most expensive part about traveling here but once you have arrived, everything else is truly a bargain. With the exchange rate being as it is, changing dollars into rupees is advantageous for the traveler and they are seeing 50% more money to travel with, thus making India one of the best bargain countries on this list.

India Market

1. Turkey

Turkey is a unique mix of eastern and western culture which visitors should plan on spending at least a few weeks discovering. Luckily it is easy to live on much less than $50 a day here and despite popular beliefs, it’s actually not that expensive to reach. Istanbul happens to be one of the handfuls of cities around the world where airfare bargains are the norm. Hostels will be your most expensive part costing about $20 a night but the quality is high and often includes a wonderful breakfast. Typical food such as kebabs and shawarmas will only cost you about $2. The good news is the buses run frequently and are cheap, offering the chance to explore a lot of this country. Turkey offers spectacular landscapes, delicious food, fantastic sights and plenty of things to do all for the mere price of $50 a day.

Istanbul, Turkey

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 10 Cool New Openings for 2016

The ever popular publisher of travel guidebooks has come out with their annual ‘Best of Travel’ guide which lists the best of the best for the next year of travel in all sorts of categories from best budget travel to best family travel experiences. If you’ve been planning ahead for next year’s vacations here is the list of the hottest new attractions set to open in 2016 to get your imagination running wild. This year’s list has something for everyone from Disney fans to football fanatics, outdoor explorers and adventurous foodies, no one will be disappointed and everyone will be scrambling to find their passport after one read through this list.

10. Shanghai Disney Resort, China

In Spring of 2916, Disney is set to open its newest resort and the first of its kind in mainland China. The park will include 6 themed areas placed around the largest constructed Enchanted Castle of any Disney park. In the center of the park, ‘The Garden of the Twelve Friends’ will depict the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac represented by Disney characters. There will also be a Disneytown entertainment district (perhaps similar to America’s Downtown Disney) located outside of the new Magic Kingdom which will feature restaurants, shopping, entertainment and two Disney hotel accommodations.

Photo by: Shanghai Disney Resort
Photo by: Shanghai Disney Resort

9. Mamma Mia! The Party, Stockholm, Sweden

Diehard ABBA fans will want to take note of this next opening in Stockholm next year; the city’s Gröna Lund amusement park will see the opening of a brand new Mamma Mia!–themed restaurant in January of 2016. The brains behind this new disco-dining experience is none other than ABBA’s own Björn Ulvaeus, the former Swedish music star also co-composed the famed Mamma Mia! musical so naturally he has some involvement here as well. Lonely Planet reports that diners will enter a Greek-style Taverna where diners will tuck into Greek specialties while the story unfolds around them.

Photo by: ABBA Fanatic
Photo by: ABBA Fanatic

8. Monnaie de Paris, France

For those who haven’t been to the city, the Monnaie de Paris is the Paris mint, and in mid-2016 it will see the completion of its ‘MetaLmorphoses’ project -a huge transformation of the mint’s 1.2-hectare site on the Seine. So far the transformation has already seen art exhibitions in the mint’s neoclassical building in 2014 and the opening of famous Michelin accredited chef Guy Savoy’s flagship restaurant in 2015. The fun will continue in 2016 with the unveiling of the mint’s previously unseen collections. In addition, there will be metalwork and foundry tours, Guy Savoy’s MetaLcafé brasserie and much more to see and do.

Photo by: Soundscapes Blog
Photo by: Soundscapes Blog

7. FIFA World Football Museum, Zurich, Switzerland

Ask any football fan if they would make a trip if there were a world football museum and chances are they would probably say yes. Well in spring of 2016, just such an attraction will be opening its doors in Zurich, Switzerland. The FIFA World Football Museum will be a 3,500 square meter facility located in the heart of the city and dedicated to the most widely played sport in the world. The museum will take visitors through the history of the game with a timeline and include a hall of fame, a cinema and a giant football pinball machine.

Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com
Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com

6. Bourdain Market, New York City, USA

Famous culinary adventurer Anthony Bourdain first announced his plans to open a food market in New York back in January 2014 and foodies have been listening for any little detail about the project ever since. While many details are still unknown (and likely will be until its opening) we do know that the theme will be crazy, loud and slightly obnoxious and it’s all set to open in early 2016. The 100,000 square foot space at Pier 57 will feature producers and carefully selected food vendors from around the world as well as a hawker-style food hall, rooftop beer garden, farmers market and oyster bar.

Erin Cadigan / Shutterstock.com
Erin Cadigan / Shutterstock.com

5. Surf Snowdonia, Wales

Snowdonia National Park in Wales is known for it’s vast natural beauty and spectacular scenery. While this piece of natural paradise is perfect for hikers and those with an appreciation for the great outdoors, there are an increasing number of adventure sports enthusiasts heading to Snowdonia for the man-made adrenaline attractions like Europe’s longest zip line and an underground trampolining center. In 2016 the park will see another new attraction to entice visitors, in the form of a 300 meter long artificial surf lagoon. The £12 million project is said to use rainwater to produce a consistent barreling 2 meter wave every minute, and is the first of its kind in the world.

Photo by: Surf Snowdonia
Photo by: Surf Snowdonia

4. National Gallery Singapore

Lonely Planet says that while Singapore is host to several world-class museums, if you only have time for one in 2016 make it the National Gallery. Located in the city’s former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, the gallery not only offers Southeast Asian art from the 19th century to today, but the venue itself offers history and its own story. Visit the restored colonial courtrooms and council chambers but make sure you also check out the beautiful rooftop garden which offers spectacular views of Marina Bay.

Photo by: National Gallery Singapore
Photo by: National Gallery Singapore

3. BASK, Gili Meno, Indonesia

BASK is a brand-new luxury villa-resort development on the island of Gili Meno near Bali. The development which is set to open in 2016 has a very recognizable celebrity endorsement on its side; David Hasselhoff, aka The Hoff, is the face of BASK and is said to be looking at having his own vacation villa in the complex. The development is located on a private white sand beach and will feature a world class restaurant, beach club, luxury spa and even its own underwater sculpture park for diving enthusiasts.

Photo by: BASK
Photo by: BASK

2. Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Abu Dhabi arts scene is about to get a new star in 2016; the Louvre Abu Dhabi was first planned to be completed in 2012, but flash forward another 4 years and we will finally see this €100 million dollar project completed. The building itself is a sight to behold as the domed structure seems to almost be floating on the water as it sits on Saadiyat Island. The museum will have a permanent collection of art throughout the ages including Chinese Buddhist carvings and Italian oil paintings while works from famed artists like Van Gogh, Monet and da Vinci will be on loan from France.

Photo by: Louvre Abu Dhabi
Photo by: Louvre Abu Dhabi

1. National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC, USA

The number one opening in 2016 is an exciting first for America; the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC for short) will become the first national museum in America to focus exclusively on the lives, history and culture of African Americans. The 10-storey space Smithsonian Institution museum will open in Washington DC in 2016 and will boast artifacts from around the country that represent the history of African Americans. Everything from Harriet Tubman’s 1876 hymn book, to a Jim Crow-era segregated railcar, to banners and photographs from notable human rights demonstrations will be on display.

Photo by: Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroupJJR
Photo by: Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroupJJR

Top 10 Tropical Islands You Have to Visit

There is something about a tropical Island that can turn even the most stressed out, overworked person into a relaxed and rejuvenated individual. Unlike taking a rushed weekend trip to a crowded beach nearby and staying in a chain hotel, the lure of a small resort surrounded by palm trees and clear blue water is a dream many people have. The Islands and beautiful beaches in Asia are some of the very best in the world and offer visitors everything from small secluded resorts on white sand beaches to social tourist hot spots with a party atmosphere. No matter what, you’ll be able to find an island that caters to your needs giving you a great experience with prices that will make your friends jealous. Quit dreaming and start planning that trip of a lifetime cause we’ve compiled an easy list of recommendations for the best tropical islands in Asia!

10. Tioman Island, Malaysia

Located in the South China Sea, a 40 minute flight from the capital of Kuala Lumpur, this 29,000 acre island offers coral reefs and clear water. Here you have the option of a simple hotel located in a seaside village or a resort on a secluded beach. Spend your time on the island jungle trekking seeing the exotic wildlife like monitor lizards and monkeys or visiting one of the many waterfalls. You can check out one of the villages and get to know the locals, do some duty free shopping or spend some time on the 18-hole golf course. Of course you are never far away from the beaches. Whether you like scuba diving, snorkeling or just reclining in a beach chair with a cool drink, the beaches are only a few steps away. Unlike some of the more crowded destinations, Tioman Island can be your relaxing trip of a lifetime.

Tioman Island

9. Panglao Island, Philippines

Unlike the more famous island of Boracay, Panglao Island is less crowded and less of a party atmosphere. Located off the Southwestern tip of Bohol connected by a bridge, the island is a great place for families and couples to relax and enjoy the laid back island life. Boats line up on the beach daily for island hopping and dolphin watching excursions. Nature preserves, cave tours and the UNESCO listed Chocolate Hills are easy day tours. Another great place to visit is the Philippine Tarsier Foundation where 331 acres have been set aside for the research and protection of the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest mammals in the world. Ecotourism, world heritage sites and beautiful white sand beaches make this Island one of our top picks and one you should definitely visit.

Panglao Island, Philippines

8. Akajima Island, Japan

An Island belonging to the Kerama Islands group in Okinawa, Aka Island can be reached by a one hour high speed ferry from the capital of Okinawa. Popular with Japanese tourists you won’t find many foreigners here. Visit the beautiful Nishibama Beach a one km stretch of white beach on the northeast coast, enjoy humpback whale watching, snorkeling and diving. Aka Island is popular with marine biologists due to the diversity of sea life and coral reefs. While most tourists visit on a day trip there are a few hotels and hostels where you can stay and relax for a few days. A small island, it is easily explored on foot. You might even catch a glimpse of the famed Kerala deer which swim between the islands. If you are looking for a quiet place to enjoy nature and get away from the crowds, Aka Island is a good choice.

Photo by: Jordy Meow via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Jordy Meow via Wikimedia Commons

7. Efate, Vanuatu

Efate has been the site of three international versions of the popular “Survivor” television show. Efate is Vanuatu’s third largest island and the most populous. With Eco tours, adventure activities such as jungle zip lines, scuba and snorkeling, markets and nightlife, it is no wonder Efate is a popular destination. For a glimpse of what ancestral islanders lived like, a visit to the Ekasup cultural village is a must. Learn firsthand from the village chief and his warriors about how it was when cannibalism was the order of the day. Visit the tranquil Mele Cascades waterfalls, take a volcano tour by air or enjoy one of the island’s beaches. There are also several fishing charters available if you’re looking to land the big one. There are several day tours available, water parks and various water sport activities to make your trip more memorable. Accommodations range from luxurious resorts and spas to budget hotels.

Efate, Vanuatu

6. Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, named after famed British explorer Captain James Cook, who visited the islands in 1773. Rarotonga has everything you would expect to find on a tropical island. Crystal clear blue lagoons, little traffic except for an island bus and some scooters, bone white beaches and coral reefs. Inland you will find a rugged tropical landscape teeming with wildlife and terraces where bananas, coconuts and pineapples are planted. The island is known for its beautiful white coral and limestone churches. If you happen to visit one for Sunday services don’t be surprised if you are invited to stay after for refreshments. A market day happens every Saturday where you can sample local food and buy some souvenirs. There is also a golf course, fishing expeditions and numerous diving sites to enjoy. With no streetlights, friendly people and beautiful beaches you may not ever want to leave.

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

5. The Maldives, South Asia

A tropical nation, the Maldives is made up of 26 coral atolls. Located in the Indian Ocean. You can take your pick of resort islands, private islands, city hotels or a cozy guest house. Scuba diving, golf and island hopping await you on what could be the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy dolphin and whale watching, take a day trip to one of the uninhabited islands for a private getaway, enjoy local food or spend the day shopping. For divers, a wreck dive at the site of the Maldives Victory, is a definite must do. A 60 meter long cargo wreck lying 20-30 meters deep is where you can explore the cargo holds and check out the sea life. Accommodations range from budget friendly, cottages perched on stilts over the water and super luxurious resorts. Spend your days diving, exploring the city of Male or relaxing on the beach. When nighttime comes, head out to one of the resort bars or take a walk on the beach,but beware the crabs tend to enjoy the beaches at night also.

Maldives

4. Ambergris Caye, Belize

The largest island in Belize can be reached by plane or ferry. Besides having some fantastic beaches, Ambergris is home to the Belize Barrier Reef which is the second largest reef in the world second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. While diving, snorkeling and fishing are some of the main attractions you should also visit the Marco Gonzalez Maya site. There are over 19 sites on the island, but none had ever been preserved until 2009 when efforts to begin preservation started. The site is now a national reserve that has a visitor area along with continuing excavations. Relax on the beaches, dive the reefs or just sit and enjoy the atmosphere at one of the many beach bars on the island at the end of the day.

Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes

3. Tahiti, French Polynesia

What would a list of the best tropical islands be without including Tahiti? The largest island in French Polynesia, Tahiti is another island on one of Captain James Cook’s travels. Tahiti also known as the “Queen of the Pacific” has been visited at one time or another by Spanish explorers, British explorers to include Captain Bligh and the HMS Bounty, French explorers, the Viceroy of Peru, whalers from Australia and missionaries from all over. They must have known something, and that is, Tahiti is a beautiful place. You can enjoy professional surfing competitions, several festivals throughout the year or if you’re brave enough – get a traditional Polynesian tattoo. You’ll have to spend time at one of the nature parks, enjoy the watersports, take a boat tour, visit some of the historical sites or just enjoy the beaches, Tahiti can be a dream vacation.

Tahiti, French Polynesia

2. Koh Lipe, Thailand

Thailand used to be a place where you could find secluded beaches and islands with little or no tourists. Recent movies, travel blogs and press have made Thailand more popular than ever. There is one place that you can still get away from the majority of the tourists and enjoy a tranquil tropical paradise. Koh Lipe is an island located on the southern part of the Thai Andaman Sea accessible by boat from either Bangkok or Malaysia. There are several beaches and nearby uninhabited islands reachable by long boat. Rent a long boat for a day trip and go island hopping where you can lounge on a deserted beach or go snorkeling on Sunrise Beach and get up close to schools of fish. Come watch the sunset on the beach or visit one of the island bars but don’t tell anyone, Koh Lipe is our secret.

Koh Lipe, Thailand

1. Bali, Indonesia

Bali is an island and province in Indonesia, also the country’s largest tourist destination. Bali offers coral reefs and dive sites, surfing, vibrant nightlife and activities for singles, couples and families. The majority of the population is Hindu and there are several temples worth visiting. Goa Lawah Temple or the Bat Cave as it is known as a popular destination along with Tanah Lot temple which sits on a rock and is completely surrounded by water during high tide. Go white water rafting, visit the waterpark or one of the nature reserves, go hiking, learn to scuba dive, surf or just enjoy the hospitality of the Balinese people. Bali is a large island with lots to see and do so if you plan to visit give yourself time to really experience and enjoy the island, and no, we won’t call your boss for you and tell him you won’t be back to work on time.

Bali, Indonesia

The 10 Most Poorly Designed Cities in the World

It’s fair to say that no city can ever be perfect as they are constantly evolving, changing and at times their systems can break down. Anyone who has sat in traffic for 3 hours in downtown Atlanta, Georgia can agree with that. But there are some cities around the world that are worse than the rest, and for a variety of reasons including poor road layout, no green space, non-working traffic lights, overcrowding and more. From India to Montana to Brazil, here are the top picks for the most poorly designed cities in the world:

10. Missoula, Montana, USA

Legend has it that when this city was first being established there were two brothers overseeing development who unfortunately had a falling out in the middle of the process. Instead of resolving their problems, they each began plotting out and building their own grids from separate sides of the city. The two grids converge in the middle of the city, which residents refer to as the “malfunction junction”. Others call this the most poorly designed city in the world because of its “Slants Streets” neighborhood, an offbeat part of town that was created when two lawyers wanted to break away and build a whole new town. The town ultimately said no and created their street plan with a grid, throwing everything out of whack. Whatever story you choose to believe, this city is a mess of bad intersections and confusing streets where trying to make a left hand turn is next to impossible.

Missoula, Montana

9. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

It may be surprising to many that this city makes the list as it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world but Dubai ends up at number nine on this list for a variety of reasons. The increasing number of skyscrapers and residential estates that take up hundreds of acres simply don’t jive well together. The entire layout of the city is connected by massive roadways leading from one enormous development to the next. Walking around the city is next to impossible because of this and frankly this city is lacking in shared public spaces. Parks and squares that encourage togetherness are void from Dubai and instead there are giant shopping malls and indoor ski resorts. If you are looking for a city where you can get to know your neighbors, have a picnic in the park or simply get some outdoor exercise; you may want to avoid Dubai.

All.in / Shutterstock.com
All.in / Shutterstock.com

8. Atlanta, Georgia, USA

If you are planning on moving to Atlanta and enjoying a traffic-free commute, think again. Traffic doesn’t get much worse than this city and in fact the traffic here is legendary. In the 1980’s and 90’s there was a boom in Atlanta that caused a massive urban sprawl and along with poorly situated highways; there seems to be no hope in terms of it getting any better. One of the major problems here is the division of race and class that leads to clashes in what should be done to alleviate the traffic problem. Georgia also happens to be one of the bottom five states in terms of highway spending per capita, meaning they aren’t committed to any kind of game plan to fix the system. Unless something drastic happens in this city, expect that the poor design will continue for decades.

Photo by: Flickr/Matt Lemmon
Photo by: Flickr/Matt Lemmon

7. Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Although this city boasts one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of the USA, Boston can be extremely difficult to navigate due to the layout of the streets. Navigating these maze-like streets can be overwhelming to both visitors and locals and although the common misconception is the streets were laid out on top of wandering cow paths, the truth is they simply weren’t laid out according to plan. The combination of random one-way streets and convoluted intersections pose significant safety issues for runners, walkers and cyclists. And although the “Big Dig” project has improved this city in many ways, it has cost an estimated $22 billion, an amount of debt that will not be paid off until approximately 2038. Although this city looks pretty, it certainly isn’t easy to find your way around and it came at a huge price to fix the problems.

Boston Aerial

6. Dhaka, Bangladesh

This capital city is truly a disaster, from one urban dysfunction to another. It stands to reason that this might happen considering out of the city’s 650 major intersections, only 60 of them have traffic lights, and only some of them work. Millions of rickshaws, cars, bike, buses, cows and motorcycles share these roads and driving here is downright dangerous. The awful transportation system means that many inhabitants are forced to live in the slums in the city, rather than commuting from outside, creating poor sanitation and water systems. This massive failure of infrastructure needs a total overhaul before it can begin to get better. In the meantime there will continue to be millions living in poverty and millions fighting each other for road space, truly proving it as one of the most poorly designed cities in the world.

Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com
Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com

5. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Over the course of the 20th century this city transitioned from a small urban environment into a sprawling metropolis, leading to what is one of the most poorly designed cities in the world. This shift in environment meant that the rich took over the center of the city and the poor were pushed to the outskirts; forcing a high number of commuters to the roads. In order to try and alleviate congestion this city implemented a two-mile elevated highway that winds right through the heart of the city, narrowly missing resident’s houses. This noisy eyesore replaced a lively neighborhood that was a cultural center of the city. The rich of the city don’t even bother dealing with roads though; instead they choose to get around by helicopter, making Sao Paulo the city with the world’s largest fleet of helicopters per capita. Unfortunately if you can’t afford a helicopter, you’re forced to deal with this:

AFNR / Shutterstock.com
AFNR / Shutterstock.com

4. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Hurricane Katrina devastated this city a decade ago due to the levee system failing miserably, a system that was designed to protect the city from storm surges. The large majority of Greater New Orleans was flooded and many people lost life and homes. Add this to the fact that this city is built on thousands of feet of soft sand, silt and clay and the song “New Orleans is Sinking” is actually coming true. Combine this with the awful traffic congestion and poor layout of roads and you can understand why this city ranks number 4 in the most poorly designed cities of the world. The saving grace of this city may just be its Mardi Gras festival that brings millions of dollars in revenue; enough to hopefully fix this infrastructure so another tragedy like Hurricane Katrina doesn’t strike this city again.

New Orleans, Louisiana highway

3. Naypyidaw, Myanmar

This fairly new capital of Myanmar has only been in existence since 2005, when the country’s government decided a change of scenery was in order. What was once a land of empty fields has been turned into a super city, six times the size of New York City and complete with 20-lane highways and widespread WiFi access. It sounds pretty great, so why is this city on the list? It happens to be located literally in the middle of nowhere with practically no residents. Government officials are pretty much the only people who choose to call this city home and while the streets and roads should be bustling with activity, more often than not there is no one around. Cities are meant to lived in and over the past decade, this city is failing miserably. Only time will tell if this was money well spent or not.

Photo by: NBC News
Photo by: NBC News

2. Brasilia, Brazil

It is the second Brazilian city on the list and while San Paulo suffers from a lack of design, Brasilia seems to suffer from too much design. This country just can’t seem to find a happy medium. The city of Brasilia was created from a plan back in the 1950’s which took inspiration from an airplane layout and included modernist concrete architecture, meant to make the city hold for years. While visually appealing to some, this city has earned a reputation for being sterile and artificial. It was also designed to house only 500,000 inhabitants but over the years has become home to almost 3 million people. In order to house all these people, it was no longer about keeping the city beautiful and more about creating room for them. Therefore Brasilia has become this mismatch of temporary fixes overshadowing its original beauty.

Donatas Dabravolskas / Shutterstock.com
Donatas Dabravolskas / Shutterstock.com

1. Jakarta, Indonesia

It happens to be the country’s capital and one of the most poorly designed cities in the World, a combination that makes getting around here a disaster. An ever-increasing number of car owners that come from the expansion of suburbia that surrounds this mega-city are to be blamed for the 400 hours a year that citizens spend in traffic. It is actually hailed as being the worst traffic in the world. It doesn’t seem like there is any solution for this mega-city as the infrastructure here falls into the hands of the local government and contracts are renegotiated annually; which means long-term projects are pretty much impossible. An average trip in this city takes about 2 hours; leaving plenty of drivers frustrated at all times. If you thought traffic was busy in your city, try living here for a few years.

Photo by: Indonesia Expat
Photo by: Indonesia Expat

15 of the Best Outdoor Hotel Pools in the World

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

15. Hotel Caruso -Salerno, Italy

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

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

14. The Oberoi Udaivilas -Udaipur, India

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

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

13. Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti -Serengeti, Tanzania

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

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

12. The Library -Koh Samui Island, Thailand

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

Photo by: The Library
Photo by: The Library

11. The Sarojin -Phang Nga, Thailand

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

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

10. The Grace Santorini -Santorini, Greece

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

Photo by: Grace Hotels
Photo by: Grace Hotels

9. San Alfonso del Mar -Valparaiso, Chile

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

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

8. Amangani -Jackson Hole, United States

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

Amangani, Wyoming

7. B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa -Zurich, Switzerland

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

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

6. Marina Bay Sands Tower Pool -Singapore, Indonesia

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

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

5. Ubud Hanging Gardens -Bali, Indonesia

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

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

4. Habita Monterrey -San Pendro Garza Garcia, Mexico

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

Photo by:  Hotel MTY
Photo by: Hotel MTY

3. Kempinski Hotel Ishtar -Amman, Jordan

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

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

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

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

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

1. Hacienda Uayamon -Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

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

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

The 15 Best Volcanoes Hikes in the World

What does it take to climb a volcano? In some cases it takes permits purchased months in advance, technical climbing skills and a paid guide. In other cases one can simply drive right into the volcano, or spend an hour hiking up a moderate hill to reach the top. How about the best volcanoes to hike, how do you determine that? We looked at hundreds of volcanoes and determined the 15 best hikes to take based on a number of factors including ease of access, views from the top, lava activity and the reward factor. From around the world, here are our top 15 choices for the best volcano hikes in the world.

15. Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

This long but challenging hike takes trekkers through scenic landscapes including snow, ice and ash from the most recent eruptions. The trek starts at sea level and goes all the way to the top through a crevasse riddled glacier and finally to the summit where you can view an enormous crater that was left by past eruptions. Glacier equipment such as crampons are required as you literally will be climbing on ice. If you happen to reach the top on a clear day, expect unbelievable views of half the entire island including glaciers, more volcanoes and the Vestmannaeyjar islands. April to September is the time to go and if you are feeling extra adventurous it is possible to ski back down. The climb can take eight to 10 hours and although challenging, you will certainly feel on top of the world on this glacier volcano.

Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

14. Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes from about 1968 to 2010 and since then has slowed down but this volcano still is known to spit out ash and sometimes even lava. It is classic in shape, being tall and symmetrical and there is no worry about being cold up here. Climbing to the summit of this volcano is actually both illegal and very dangerous, but luckily there are a few worthwhile hikes that are totally legal and still get you up on the mountain. The main trial inside the park is about 5 km in length and takes you through the rain forest with several opportunities to view the peak. Expect lots of wildlife including toucans and monkeys along with explosions from the peak. Expect to hike over old lava flows and hit many viewing areas where you can actually hear the volcano breathing, which is really quite impressive.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

13. Mount Fuji, Japan

It is the highest volcano and highest peak in Japan where tourists and locals’ alike swarm to climb this volcano, known as one of the three Holy Mountains. More than 200,000 people a year to be exact. The last eruption of Mount Fuji occurred in 1707 and spread ash as far as what is now Tokyo forming a new crater on the east flank. July to September is the official climbing season where trails and mountain facilities are open. The most popular way to climb this volcano is to climb halfway up to one of the huts, take a break and set off again in the night, reaching the summit for sunrise. Worshipping the sun from the top of Japan’s highest peak creates something of a spiritual experience, no matter if you are religious or not. Avoiding the crowds is not possible on this mountain and some trekkers believe that climbing amongst so many like minded people just adds to the overall experience.

Mount Fuji 1

12. Mount Etna, Sicily

The largest active volcano in Europe, Etna soars into the sky often surrounded by mist and steam. Mount Etna is special in that it has this unique relationship with the people that live as the foot of it. They believe that Etna gives them fertile ground by spitting out lava and respect must be granted as it can also take away life. This volcano can be climbed year round and does not require any sort of permit or guide, but it is recommended to be informed about the activity status as it sometimes shuts down to hikers. It has recently come to the attention of many trekkers that the actual summit is unavailable to anyone who doesn’t have a guide, but that fact is up for debate. Plan on seeing solidified rivers of lava, views of the sea and the mainland, provided the top isn’t covered in clouds.

Mount Etna

11. Pacaya, Guatemala

You aren’t allowed quite to the top of this volcano but it should be on your list of things to climb for a number of reasons. First up, this trek can be done in half a day, which makes it perfect for someone on a time crunch. Secondly, not only are you climbing on an active volcano but you can actually see a second active volcano nearby and a third that is now a crater lake. The trek begins through lush green foliage and views are of surrounding fields and hills. The trail eventually turns into lava rock and dust, becoming really slippery. This is when it pays to have a walking stick. At the “top” the lava is literally running underneath you and it becomes clear as to why you need shoes with really good soles, they will literally melt. Marshmallows and hot dogs are routinely busted out and cooked over the lava.

Pacaya Volcano

10. Mount Vesuvius, Italy

This volcano is known worldwide as being responsible for covering the city of Pompeii with a blanket of ash in 79 A.D., which in turn preserved it until the re-discovery of it in the 1700’s. Since that time this volcano has blew its top more than 30 times throughout history and most recently in 1944. The climb to the summit is the easiest climb on this list and only takes about 30 minutes. It is best done in hiking shoes or running shoes and there is no need to carry any gear with you. What awaits visitors at the top is a stunning panorama of the city, islands and part of the Apennine Mountains. Admission to the volcano actually includes a guided tour of the crater at the top which many climbers are unaware of. You won’t find any spewing lava here but steam is often seen coming out of the crater. On a sunny day expect to see views out to the bay of Naples. If you are wanting to climb a famous volcano and don’t want to worry about tackling snow, steep ridges or carrying gear; this is the one for you.

Mount Vesuvius

9. Pinatubo, Philippines

This active volcano is actually located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines and last erupted in 1991, producing one of the most violent eruptions of the 20th century. As of now the volcano is quite quiet and it is the perfect time to summit and enjoy the blue green crater lake that didn’t exist 30 years ago. January is the best time to go as temperatures are at the coolest and the lake color at its finest. The one day trek is actually quite easy as a 4X4 will take you part of the way. The trek is done within a few hours at a moderate incline. If one desires it is actually possible to pitch a tent at the summit and spend the night, an outhouse is even provided at the top. Hikers will make their way up the path, passing sandy cliffs along the way as well as small tribes of indigenous people.

Pinatubo, Philliphines

8. Kilauea, Hawaii

Located on the Big Island, Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano and one of the most easily accessible. In the 20th century alone this volcano has erupted on 45 separate occasions with the most recent eruption beginning in 1983. To date this eruption continues and has spewed over 32 billion cubic yards of lava, forever changing the landscape. You can actually drive into this volcano, but hiking throughout is most recommended as it’s one of the only places on earth you can literally walk through an active volcano. Walking around Crater Rim Drive is one of the most popular activities as you can witness lava oozing out of it, witness steam vents and walk across the land that is only a few days old. There are numerous hiking trails throughout and although one can’t plan a visit around when and where to see the lava, helpful guides at the visitors center will point you in the right direction.

Mount Kilauea

7. Mount Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Hiking up this volcano is only permitted with a guide and there is a strict limit on how many people are allowed to visit the crater each day, thus make sure to book your trip in advance. The trip to the top isn’t for the faint of heart and will take anywhere from two to four hours to reach the summit. The most popular time to reach the top is at nighttime and thus more tours leave around 4 pm. A gentle incline awaits hikers at first, taking you through lush vegetation. It quickly becomes steeper and one should expect to walk through volcanic sand that is strewn with black rocks. There are actually three craters at the top that billow out steam and smoke, making strange gurgling sounds. The light show at the top is what everyone waits for though as the craters explode with red fiery sparks, shooting high into the air.

Mount Stromboli

6. Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Indonesia is home to over 100 active volcanoes and daily earthquakes, making it a popular place for adrenaline junkies and hikers alike. Although Mount Bromo isn’t the tallest of the active volcanoes in Indonesia, it is the most visited and is quite easily accessible. The volcano has a constant stream of white smoke coming out of it, reminding visitors that it could explode at any time. Getting to the summit is easy without a guide and is best done in time to see the sunrise, meaning a 3 am wake up call is necessary. The well-defined path up should only take you an hour or so. An interesting fact about this volcano is that the Tengger people believe that in order to appease the Gods here they must offer food and money to them by throwing it into the crater of the volcano during the annual Kasada festival.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

5. Cotopaxi, Ecuador

It is the second highest peak in Ecuador, lovely looking with its white snow and cone shape. This trek is not for inexperienced hikers though as it is more of a mountain climb than just a hike up the side. In the 18th and 19th century this volcano had a violent spell but now it is mostly just a plume of steam that comes out the top and melts its glacier surroundings. To get here most climbers take a 4X4 up to the border of the national park. They then climb with their guide up to a mountain hut and spend the night, summiting the next morning. It is currently illegal to climb to the summit without a guide and recent signs of eruption have limited the climbing that is allowed. If you have the chance though, summiting the world’s third highest active volcano is certainly something to put on the bucket list.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

4. Mont Pelee, Martinique

In 1902 this dramatic volcano erupted and destroyed the entire town of St. Pierre killing about 30,000 people. Luckily since then you can climb this volcano without worries and without tourists at every bend in the trail. Being an integral part of France, visitors climbing here face no red tape or fees but will need some French to get by as English is not widely spoken. Because of the immense vegetation on the island there are three established routes that trekkers can take. The most popular of these is the Aileron Route as it is a well-constructed and wonderfully varied trail. Climbing before dawn is recommended as the clouds roll in day after day just after dawn and prohibit hikers from the magical views that await. Gorgeous lush green vegetation, flowering plants and jagged peaks surprise visitors along the way of this volcano that really looks nothing like the grey, lava strewn volcanoes you are used to.

Mount Pelee, France

3. Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

Nicaragua is full of volcanoes, both dormant and active and it can be hard to choose which one to climb but we highly suggest heading to Telica. The majority of the way up tends to be flat, through farm lands and over dirt roads. It is only the last hour or two where you finally start to hike to the top. The best season for climbing this mountain is up for debate as the dry season tends to be hot whereas the rainy season can make the lava harder to witness. Camping at the top of Telica is one of the most popular trips to do as seeing the lava at night is something special and the sunrise in the morning is truly spectacular. The lava is below the crater rim at a depth of about 120 meters and visitors should expect to have to lie down on their stomachs to look into the crater.

Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

2. Mount Aso, Japan

It is Japan’s largest active volcano and climbing it is certainly an adventure that should be on the top of your bucket list. There are three trails you can use to get up to the summit, with one of them not actually leading up to the volcano (hint: do not take the left trail). The hike itself can take anywhere from an hour or three depending on which trail and how many stops you take along the way. There are actually five separate volcanic peaks here and Mt. Nakadake is the most active spewing a constant stream of sulfuric gas from its peak. If you are feeling really lazy and still want to get to the top of the volcano, there is a choice of two cable cars that will get you there.

Mount Aso, Japan

1. Mount St Helens, United States

It is mandatory to have a permit to hike this active volcano, no matter what time of year and there are only a number of permits that are handed out each year if you want to make it to the top of the crater. Although it is not a technical climb it is strenuous and presents hazards such as ice, loose boulders and fast-changing weather. The scene at the top is what people climb for an it has been described as ‘surreal, unbelievable and awe-inspiring’. A huge crater with a dome that grows in size each year and has a horseshoe glacier around it, not to mention incredible views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, as well as the blue green hills that surround them are all sights to take in from the top. This is truly one of the best volcano hikes in the world and must be at the top of your list to climb.

Mount St Helens, US

The 10 Most Amazing Observation Decks in Asia

While skyscrapers and aspiring to reach the heavens have been fundamental fascinations in North American architecture and engineering for decades now, the trend has caught fire in many places in Asia, where towers now eclipse older Western buildings (and each other) on a regular basis. This development affords tourists more opportunity to get above it all and see some of Asia’s most iconic cityscapes from a dizzying new perspective. Representing a mix of old and new, traditional and modern, here are the best observation decks on the rapidly changing Asian landscape today.

10. Seoul Tower, South Korea

A tower with many names, including N Seoul Tower, YTN Seoul Tower and Namsan Tower, this building stands 236 meters high and marks the highest point in Seoul, South Korea’s capital. Located on Namsan Mountain, the tower functions for both telecommunications and observation. Constructed in 1971, it is Korea’s first general radio wave tower. The tower is renowned as a national landmark, and photographers and visitors alike relish the tower for the cityscapes it provides. Every year, thousands of tourists and locals visit the tower, especially during nighttime light displays such as the “Reeds of Light” and “Showers of Light,” which are created with LED technology. In addition to the four observation decks, the tower has developed into a full-scale tourist attraction, with museums, cafes and gift shops. One of the observatories is a digital display that showcases Korea’s history. Visitors can ride the Namsan cable car to the tower.

Guitar photographer / Shutterstock.com
Guitar photographer / Shutterstock.com

9. National Monument, Indonesia

This tower stand 433-feet tall (132-meter), situated in Merdeka Square isn’t just another skyscraper built to have a claim to fame. The obelisk monument symbolizes the fight for Indonesian independence. After independence was finally granted from Dutch colonial powers in 1950, the Indonesian government contemplated building a commemorative monument outside the presidential palace in Jakarta. Finished in 1975, the national monument achieved exactly that, as it was topped with a gold-foiled flame. Today, the Monument is open to the public every day between 8 am and 3 pm. Long lines build quickly, so it’s best to go early. Ride the lift to the observation deck, 115 meters above the ground, and view the cityscape of the Indonesian capital sprawling in all directions. Afterwards, visit the National History Museum and the associated dioramas about Indonesian history and independence.

National Monument, Indonesia

8. Ushiku Daibutsu, Japan

This observation deck is a bit of an oddity on a list that includes mostly communications towers and skyscrapers, but that’s part of the reason Ushiku Daibutsu is one of Asia’s best observation decks. Rather than another spire or office building, Ushiku Daibutsu is a 390-foot (120-meter) tall statue of Amitabha Buddha, built to commemorate Shinran, the founder of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. The observation deck is located at 279 feet (85 meters), on the fourth floor of the statue. Visitors can look out over the adjacent flower garden and animal park. The three floors below the observation deck feature golden Buddha statues, scriptural studies and smoking incense, serving as a kind of museum. For almost 10 years, between 1993 and 2002, it was the world’s tallest statue; today, only two other statues surpass its height.

Ushiku Daibutsu, Japan

7. International Commerce Center, China

Built on top of Kowloon Station in Hong Kong, this development is part of the Union Square project. In 2014, it was the world’s eighth tallest building by height and the tallest building in Hong Kong. The observatory, called Sky100, is located on the hundredth floor of the building. It opened in 2011 and is currently the highest observation deck in Hong Kong, at 1,289 feet (393 meters) above the ground. Two high-speed elevators take visitors to the observation deck at 100 feet per second, making the trip about 13 seconds long. An advanced telescope provides visitors with pre-recorded views, including “sunny days,” “night view” and “fireworks.” On-screen indicators direct attention to landmarks such as Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong. Just above the 100th floor, visitors will find a café serving snacks and refreshments, as well as a restaurant.

International Commerce Center, China

6. Skybridge at Petronas Towers, Malaysia

Located in the Malaysian capital, the Petronas Towers held the record for world’s tallest buildings between 1998 and 2004, and they remain the tallest twin towers in the world today. Rising a staggering 1,483 feet (452 meters), the towers dominate the skyline of Kuala Lumpur. One of the main features of the buildings is the double-decker Skybridge, the highest two story bridge in the world. Connecting the 41st and 42nd floors between the two towers, it floats 558 feet above the ground, providing structural support to the towers. Visitors are limited to 1,000 people per day, and tickets must be purchased. Visitors can opt to visit just the Skybridge or to purchase a package that includes a visit to the 86th floor of the tower. As prominent landmarks, the towers have featured in many movies and TV shows and, of course, provide a stunning view of Kuala Lumpur.

littlewormy / Shutterstock.com
littlewormy / Shutterstock.com

5. Bitexco Financial Tower Skydeck, Vietnam

Sometimes called the Saigon Skydeck or simply Skydeck, this observation deck occupies the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The building is mixed-use shopping, office and restaurant space, and was once the tallest building in Vietnam, although it has since been displaced. It stands at 861 feet (around 263 meters) and is said to have been inspired by the lotus, Vietnam’s national flower. The Skydeck opened in 2011 and a ticket costs around $10. Currently the tallest skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh City, it provides unparalleled views of the cityscape. The deck itself is glass-enclosed and the building’s helipad serves as the roof. Nonetheless, you’ll still want to go on a clear day to get the best visibility or to see a fantastic sunset. Restaurants in the building offer a spot to check out some authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

Photo by: Bitexco Financial Tower
Photo by: Bitexco Financial Tower

4. Oriental Pearl Tower, China

Located at the tip of Lujiazui in Shanghai’s Pudong district, on the banks of the Huangpu River, the Oriental Pearl Tower has become both a landmark and major tourist attraction in the area. Between 1994 and 2007, it was the tallest building in China, measuring 1,535 feet in height (468 meters) from bottom to the tip of its antenna spire. The tower serves telecommunications purposes, but it also has a shopping mall, a hotel, a restaurant and not just one observation deck, but three. The highest observation deck is the Space Module, located at 350 meters and has an outdoor viewing area. The building is lit up with LED displays at night, which highlight its unique construction, featuring 11 spheres, the largest of which have diameters of 50 and 45 meters, respectively. This tower isn’t just an observation deck; it’s an experience in and of itself!

toiletroom / Shutterstock.com
toiletroom / Shutterstock.com

3. Marina Bay Sands Skypark, Singapore

Billed as the best view in Singapore, the Skypark is part of the Marina Bay Sands resort on the island. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it forms part of the integrated resort, which boasts a shopping center, a hotel, restaurants and a casino as well. The SkyPark is a one hectare terrace that sits atop the three hotel towers and features several restaurants and the world’s longest elevated swimming pool. The observation deck itself is open to the public (although you need to purchase a ticket) and sits on a cantilever. It provides a stunning 360-degree view of the Singapore skyline, which is spectacular at night and during the day. Because of the awe-inspiring view it provides, some consider Skypark a compulsory activity if you visit Singapore. A popular tip: for just a few dollars more, skip the ticket, visit the bar and enjoy a drink as you gaze out over the cityscape.

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

2. Tokyo Skytree, Japan

While it’s not as iconic as Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree is the landmark tower’s successor. Proclaimed the tallest building in Japan in 2010, the tower serves as the primary television and radio broadcast site for the Kanto region, replacing Tokyo Tower. It is also the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest building, with only Burj Khalifa rising higher. It stands 2,080 feet (634 meters) high, towering over all other buildings in Tokyo. The tower uses LED illumination at night and has two alternating patterns, called Iki and Miyabi. Skytree now provides the single-best point of view for panoramas of Tokyo. The tower has two observation decks, one at 1,150 feet and the other at 1,480 feet. The upper observatory features a spiral skywalk and a section of glass flooring that gives downward views of the streets directly below.

Tokyo Skytree, Japan

1. Taipei 101, Taiwan

Formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, this supertall skyscraper had the distinction of being the world’s tallest building between 2004 and 2010, when it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Today, this 1,671 foot tall (509 meter) building is the tallest and greenest building in the world. It was the first building to break the half-kilometer mark. Its new name is derived from its 101 floors and its location in Taipei, Taiwan. Observation decks are located on the 88th, 89th and 91st floors; the 91st floor is an outdoor deck, while the lower floors are indoor. At 1,285 feet above the ground, the 91st floor is the highest platform in Taiwan and the second highest observation deck ever found in a skyscraper. That means Taipei 101 provides an unparalleled 360-degree view of the city skyline. Tickets can be purchased at the mall located in the building.

Taipei 101, Taiwan