The Best Cities to Buy Property in Europe

There is no better time than right now to purchase property in Europe, especially if you’re looking to snag a hot deal. Whether you are looking to settle down in an Irish cottage where waves crash against the dramatic cliffs or you’re looking to earn rental income in the heart of Turkey, here are the top 15 cities to buy property in Europe.

15. Istria, Croatia

Head to Southern Europe to the super affordable corner that is Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, where apartments and houses are cheap. Croatia borders the Adriatic Sea and offers two appealing retirement lifestyle options, whether you want to be on the coast or inland- where meadows, vineyards and olive groves are your backyards. The Romans invested in some of their best buildings here back in the day, as did the Venetians when they ruled. What that means for retirees here is a landscape full of fortresses, bell towers, and an architectural legacy.

Rovinj at sunset, Istra region, Croatia.

14. Athens, Greece

Greece took a big hit during the economic crisis which has created a great opportunity to purchase real estate now. Athens, the capital of Greece offers year-round entertainment and inexpensive flights from the UK. However, it’s important to be wary about where you buy, just as you would in any major city. It may be best to consider an apartment in the city center or invest in the Kolonaki and Plaka neighborhoods as these areas are far more affordable.

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13. Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia’s capital is a gorgeous city that is rich in history dating back to Roman times. It’s predicted that Zagreb will see serious growth in the next couple of years which means this is a city you’ll want to have on your radar. In 2018, the country only saw an 8.5% increase in asking prices for condos, however, condos located in Zagreb saw a 20% increase. Further, in 2019 there was a 30% increase in Airbnb homes located in Zagreb which is a great indicator that the city is seeing a surge in vacation rentals. It’s evident that the city’s real estate market is booming and if you want to get in before the prices reach an all-time high, now is the time to buy!

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12. Algarve, Portugal

Home to more than 100,000 resident expats, it is clear that for decades this place has been the hot place to buy. Luckily for those looking to experience the 3,300 hours of sunshine per year this place gets, the market is still affordable. The Algarve’s 100 miles of Atlantic coastline is full of jagged rock formations, lagoons, and sandy beaches. The waters are azure in color and the cliff-top vistas are spectacular, Add in 42 golf courses in the region, plenty of time for sailing and boating and you have yourself one heck of a place to live. Plus the average price per square meter for real estate is just $1,345 US, a pretty good bargain for a pretty special place.

Algarve, Portugal

11. Feldkirch And Bludenz, Austria

Austria is experiencing a real estate boom which is making the secondary cities more appealing. This is because property prices in secondary cities like Feldkirch and Bludenz are far lower than major cities like the country’s capital, Vienna. Feldkirch and Bludenz are both charming alpine cities that are surrounded by stunning forest mountains. Both towns saw a 20% increase in real estate prices in the last couple of years which is higher than the country’s capital which came in at about an 18% increase. These low prices won’t last for long, so now is the best time to buy.

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10. Beara Peninsula, Ireland

There has been a strong surge in demand for family homes in desirable areas of Ireland’s main cities, but that shouldn’t discourage buyers who are looking to purchase in Ireland, it just means you need to go elsewhere. The buying place right now is on Ireland’s Southwest coast, that is if you are looking for a charming cottage or seaside house. This is not where you want to buy as an investor but instead, as a homeowner. The Beara Peninsula is the largest and most remote on this coast and houses here are quite inexpensive. Locals here are opting to buy new houses rather than renovate old traditional farmhouses and prices are rock bottom. Think $80,000 US for a typical Irish farm cottage that is steps away from the ocean and needs a little fixing up. Giant waves crashing onto cliffs, miles of sandy beaches, mountain range and warm air — there seems no good reason why we all shouldn’t be buying a second home in this beautiful country.

Beara Peninsula, Ireland

9. Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey’s property market wasn’t hit as hard as others in the world in the years 2008 and 2009, with recovery times only take about a year and a half. Despite that, Istanbul remains a bargain when it comes to real estate with starting market prices at about $1,000 a square meter. Turkey is a country of the future, with half of its population younger than 30 years of age, which means the time to invest, is now. With the economy growing and being diversified between Europe and Asia it is easier than ever for foreigners to invest here. A construction boom is also taking place in Istanbul as half the current housing stock in the country needs to be replaced or renovated, thus making it easy to get in on buying pre-construction apartments. Getting in early on a new build means discounted pricing and the expectation of price increase over the construction period. The time to invest in Turkey is now.

Istanbul, Turkey

8. Abruzzo, Italy

Abruzzo, Italy is a region that one may not think to consider when exploring properties in Italy but because it’s undiscovered it’s full of inexpensive properties. Abruzzo is full of charming ancient towns and has a landscape unlike anywhere else Italy from boasting hills to mountains. That said, you’ll still be able to indulge in all the things you love about Italy from delicious wine and food to stunning architecture and of course their hot summers. Purchasing a home in Abruzzo will cost you about $50, 000 US dollars, give or take depending on what town you choose to buy property in. Many of the homes are built of stone which helps to keep the homes cool in the summer and they’re also often equipped with open fireplaces to keep the home warm and cozy in the winter.

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7. Rotterdam, The Netherlands

About an hour away from The Netherlands capital, Amsterdam is a quaint city called Rotterdam. Rotterdam is a port city and is full of hip art, plenty of shopping, and has a bustling nightlife. Most importantly, Rotterdam inspires so much innovation that it’s considered the architecture city of Holland. Rotterdam saw a 17% increase in home prices in the past year which far surpasses the country’s average of 10%. In 2019 properties sold in about 33 days which is 11% faster than in 2018. As you can see, the property demand in Rotterdam is growing at a fast rate, making Rotterdam a city you’ll want to invest in sooner rather than later.

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6. Rennes, France

Rennes, France is rich in history, full of luscious green space, and has the appeal of a big city but on a much smaller scale. While there are 90 historic monuments in the old center, you will notice Rennes feels youthful. This is because over 200, 000 residents are students. Between the attractive property prices and the new High-speed rail that can get you from Rennes to Paris in about an hour and a half, there’s no wonder why Renne’s should be on your radar. But keep in mind the high-speed rail will continue to make this an attractive city so now the’s time to buy if you’re thinking of investing in property in France.

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5. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe and is the second-largest city in Bulgaria, right behind the country’s capital, Sofia. The town was built around seven hills which is a large part of the city’s history. In 2019, The European Union named Plovdiv the European Capital of Culture which made the city a big focus for the whole year. This title also sparked a number of urban revitalization projects that have caused the city to see steady growth in real estate sales that is consistent with the country’s capital. With the city holding the European Capital of Culture title for a full year now, it’s predicted that the real estate will sky-rocket even further making it a great city to buy into now.

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4. Budapest, Hungary

There is great value to be found all over Budapest and the time to get into the market is now when others haven’t. From 2007 to 2014 the market in Budapest was in a major slump, causing housing prices to hit rock bottom, and it is only now that they are starting to recover. Budapest is truly a beautiful place, both to live and work and that is great for any investor when it comes to real estate as the demand for rental properties continues to increase. Budapest also happens to be a year-round tourist destination offering amazing bathhouses, dining options, and architecture; drawing visitors who often seek out private rentals to stay in. With good yields, low to moderate transaction costs and pro-landlord laws, it is easy to understand why buying property here is the right choice.

GTS Productions / Shutterstock.com
GTS Productions / Shutterstock.com

3. Seville, Spain

Spain is a popular destination, between the pleasant climate, and stunning landscapes there’s a lot to see and do. But for those looking to buy a piece of real estate in Spain now is the time to do so. Spain’s economy suffered immensely during the economic crisis, however, after 2013 the decline started to slow. Now, the demand in real estate is beginning to grow again making it a great country to invest in. If you’re looking to buy property in Spain, the city of Seville is where you may want to start. This stunning city is famous for flamenco dancing and is home to major landmarks from the ornate Alcázar Castle complex to the site of Christopher Columbus’s tomb and more. The markets have shown that Seville has great revenue growth and for those looking to invest in a rental property, the rental demand is high as this city experiences low seasonality.

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2. Apulia, Italy

This is the region that forms the heel of the Italian boot, a region not always thought of when you speak of Italy. But it is here where you can find low-priced properties in a stunning setting. Trulli houses, beehived shaped rural houses are the norm around here and there are plenty on the market for less than $100,000 US. Apulia features numerous sandy beaches on two coastlines, country land overflowing with vineyards and olive groves, and a slew of historic towns worth exploring. Living costs are low, there is an abundance of churches and palaces, medieval streets beckon you and craftsmen line the streets. This laidback, eccentric area is perfect whether you are buying a second home or starting over in life. A true bargain for a slice of Italian history, loaded with incredible scenery and people.

Apulia, Italy

1. Lisbon, Portugal

Time and time again we hear that this is the most affordable capital in Western Europe and it’s a wonder how long this will last as foreigners start to grab up inexpensive houses. For now, though it is quite inexpensive to buy here. A 2-bedroom apartment in a charming neighborhood will set you back about $100,000 US. Lisbon is a city where you can enjoy a European lifestyle, complete with history, romance, astonishing hospitality, and a seaside location for Latin American prices. The climate here is mild, the amenities are plenty and the people are among the most polite and friendly. With a low cost of living, charming hilly narrow streets and the sea at your fingertips. This is the perfect place to scoop up a second home.

Lisbon, Portugal

Horseback Riding in Europe: 10 Best Trails

Saddle up and head for the hills of Europe on 10 of the most popular horseback riding trails. With its varied landscape and long tradition of horsemanship, Europe is ideal for a horseback-riding holiday. Every country has its own distinctive history and natural wonders to be explored and horse riding offers a completely different perspective on popular European destinations. From the chateaus of France to the glaciers of Scandinavian, get ready for a ride of a lifetime.

10. France

With their centuries-old tradition of horseback riding, Renaissance chateaus from the 16th century, and vineyards of Bordeaux, France is an excellent place to experience the country by horseback. Like an aristocrat from the Victorian era, saddle up, English style, for an adventure into the ancient woodlands and castles of the Loire Valley. Another popular riding spot is Provence, an area known for its fine food and glorious landscapes that inspired Cezanne. Riders can also discover the rugged, remote Pyrenees of Pays Basque, the region that borders Spain, for a ride through the mountains and rolling hills. Get ready to gallop across sandy beaches of Landes and witness the castles and famous wine cellars of Bordeaux. Following the French riding tradition of Natural Horsemanship, riding experts encourage a non-violent approach to training, which is a horse whispering riding style that has been passed down through generations.

9. Portugal

With its natural diversity and pleasant weather, Portugal has excellent terrain for horseback riding. On a riding holiday of a lifetime, get ready for gallops on deserted sandy beaches, trail rides through mountain ranges, and breathtaking trails along windswept coastlines. In Lisbon and Porto, saddle up and discover the historic architecture of the medieval quarters. For more remote landscapes of the Portugal countryside, head to a romantic pousada, monastery, or manor house for an overnight stay in between trail rides. There are also beautiful rides in Alto Alentjo along the southwest coast and the farmlands and rolling hills of upper Alentjo. Portugal has a long dressage tradition, which is cultivated at the world-class training facility of Lusitano Riding Center. If you’re a novice rider, they offer beginner lessons on the Lusitano horse, a breed considered the best riding horse for its calm temperament and sturdiness.

8. Ireland

After a pint of Guinness and a hearty traditional Irish meal, saddle up on a Connemara pony and head out into the Irish countryside. Like most of Europe, Ireland has a rich history of horsemanship, making it easy to horseback ride across Emerald Isle. Horseback is a great way to explore the highlands of Kerry County or the dramatic coastal cliffs of the Atlantic coast. Ireland is also filled with vast grasslands and meadows, the perfect spot for an epic gallop. It’s also a chance for Americans to reconnect with their distant Irish heritage. Along the trails, you’ll find a rich Celtic heritage in the remote islands off the Atlantic with old stone ruins dotting the landscape. The countryside is also full of medieval castles, ancient monasteries, and famous landmarks. In between trail rides, pop in a historic pub that seems to be at the end of every path.

7. Iceland

Situated on the edge of the Arctic Circle is one of the most rugged and remote landscapes on earth. With its glaciers, dramatic fjords, waterfalls, and volcanoes, Iceland has some of the most scenic horseback riding trails. The region of the North Atlantic is so rough that extra horses are often brought along to prevent exhaustion along the trail. But the extra effort is worth it for an up close look at the country’s stunning natural wonders. But with the Icelandic horse leading the way, you can rely on the sturdy, even-tempered beast of burden to take you safely through the terrain. Often passing through the backcountry, the riding trails typically lead to rustic mountain huts amongst wild mountain backdrops. The landscape might be unyielding, but on horseback, it’s a thrilling ride through the world’s most dramatic natural scenery.

6. Cyprus

Known as Aphrodite’s Isle, Cyprus is full of romantic notions, particularly the legend of the goddess of love rising out of the waves. With its sandy beaches, hillsides, and mountain ranges, the ancient isle has a variety of trails that are ideal for horseback riding. Along the way, you’ll get to explore relics of the ancient world, medieval castles, and Byzantine churches. In a landscape filled with historic wonders and romantic legends, it’s no surprise that Cyprus is a popular honeymoon destination and a vacation on horseback ups the ante in the art of romance. Another horse riding trail is in the countryside of Mesogi in the Paphos region where the Eagle Mountain Ranch offers

5. Greece

In the Cradle of the Ancient World, explore the backdrop to Greek mythology by horseback just like the early pioneers. Starting in Crete, saddle up for a ride through traditional farmlands, rolling hills, ancient olive groves along the rugged coast of the Mediterranean. Back on the mainland, the country is full of major archeological sites, including the ancient city of Athens and the ruins of the Partheneon and Acropolis, among others. The mild Mediterranean weather is also ideal for horseback riding year-round and a cool gallop down the coast at sunset is a favorite activity for Greek riders. From the ancient city of Athens to the rugged coast, Greece is full of unforgettable trail rides for the novice or the expert rider.

4. Norway

With its dramatic fjords, rugged mountain ranges, and ancient woodlands, Norway is full of horseback riding trails. Saddle up on a sturdy, sure-footed Icelandic horse and head out into the Scandinavian countryside for an unforgettable horseback-riding holiday. In the southwest, riders can explore the fjords under the midnight sun, a place where the sun never rises in the winter or sets in midsummer. Norway also contains Justedalsbreen, Europe’s largest glacier, which can be explored by horseback on a guided tour. Along the way, you’ll get the chance to see the Sognefjord and Nordfjord, which cut through each side of the glacier. Deep in the rural area, riders often stop off at rustic mountain cottages before heading out for another day of trailblazing against the backdrop of the Scandinavian heartland.

3. Romania

Deep in the heart of vampire country is the mysterious and ancient Transylvania, the jewel of Romania. Get ready to gallop through green fields, past steep snow-capped mountains, and old monasteries left by monks of antiquity. As the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Romania is an land of intrigue, legends of the Old World, and natural wonders. Follow the trail through quaint folk villages that haven’t felt the passage of time and still plow the fields with horses. The region is also known for the mountains that were featured in the movie Cold Mountain and the medieval villages in the nearby Carpathian Mountains. For an unforgettable experience that will take you back to the 18th century, take a horse and carriage ride to Borgo Pass for a spooky overnight stay in Hotel Castle Dracula.

2. Spain

In a world of stunning natural landscapes, historic landmarks, and medieval villages, Spain is a great place for horseback riding adventures. Starting in Catalonia, head out to the trails leading to volcanoes and pristine sandy beaches. Spain also contains part of the Pyrenees Mountain Range, a rugged landscape ideal for cross-country horse riding. Outside Madrid, a popular trail takes riders to medieval villages that dot the countryside and finally to the Kingdom of Castile in the Gredos Mountains, an area known for its red-roofed Romanesque architecture that was popular in antiquity. The Spanish horse, known as the Andalusian, is the most ancient horse breed in the world. Although their exact origin is unknown, they are believed to be a distant relative of the mustang and quarter horse breeds that are popular in the US.

1. Turkey

At the crossroads of the East and West, Turkey has been a major center of trade and culture throughout the centuries, dating back to the ancient world. For horseback riders, the country has some unique trails the pass through ancient ruins scattered throughout Anatolia, the eastern part of Turkey. Further south on the coast of the Mediterranean, you’ll find a different landscape of dramatic coastal cliffs and sandy beaches for a spirited seaside gallop. Other trails will take you through the Anatolian Plateau, which is considered the heartland of Turkey with its tranquil countryside surround by woodlands. Further along the coast is the Turkish Riviera, also known as the Turquoise Coast. Here you’ll find deserted beaches, mountain scenery, and the famous Lycian tombs carved out of rocks jutting out from precarious cliffs, making the carvings a natural wonder of the ancient world.

The Safest Cities For Women to Travel Alone in Europe

There has never been a better time than now to be a solo female traveler looking to explore Europe. Cities are becoming safer, female-friendly hotels are popping up and it is getting easier to meet other solo female travelers around the world. Here are 20 safe European cities for female solo travelers.

20. Vienna, Austria

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Austria is ranked number 4 on the Global Peace Index, making it an excellent and safe country for female solo travelers to visit. Vienna, the capital of Austria has earned the name of “city with the highest quality of life” several years in a row.

Vienna is full of stunning architecture, music, and history. There are plenty of museums to visit, such as Sigmund Freud’s house. This museum will help you understand why Vienna is known as the “city of dreams”.  You may also want to make a stop at Prater park to see the iconic Riesenrad Ferris wheel landmark. Finally, be sure to head to a local restaurant and try authentic Austrian food such as Wiener Schnitzel (a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet), Sachertorte (chocolate torte), or an Apfelstrudel (apple strudel).

19. Edinburgh, Scotland

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Between the breathtaking landscapes, ancient castles, and rich history, Scotland has a lot to offer. Scotland, a region of the United Kingdom ranks 45 on the Global Peace Index and is considered safe for female solo travelers. There is so much to do and see in Edinburg, the capital of Scotland. To begin, if you visit in August, there is a month-long arts festival called Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This festival offers theatrical performances, comedy shows, and many other activities that would be perfect for a female solo traveler, especially if you’re hoping to meet new people.

Moreover, consider taking a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle and take in the medieval architecture. After visiting the castle, be sure to head to Calton Hill which is a high point in the city that allows you to catch a full view of Edinburgh. Finish your day at a local pub and indulge in authentic food while meeting the locals.

18. Berlin, Germany

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Berlin, Germany’s capital is home to 3.5 million residents. Berlin is rich in history and full of culture and would be an excellent place to explore on your own. There are many restaurants, markets, and cafes in Berlin that will make you feel comfortable dining alone.

Discover what this city has to offer by taking a free walking tour, use the bike-sharing program, or hop on public transportation. Be sure to check out the Brandenburg Gate, and the Holocaust Memorial, and the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

17. Bruges, Belgium

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If you are a solo female traveler looking to immerse yourself in a fairy tale this would be the city to visit. Straight off a postcard, the city of Bruges is loaded with cobblestone streets, historic houses, and canals. It is here where you will be inspired to take long strolls throughout the streets and enjoy Belgian pints of beer by street-side cafes while people watching.

This city is extremely safe, for all travelers and welcomes visitors, especially in the summertime when it becomes peak travel season. There is a range of good hotels along with budget hostels that will meet any traveler’s budget, and English is widely understood throughout. Female travelers will feel safe as locals are willing to lend a hand if needed and are more than happy to give advice on where to go, what to see, and where to grab the next pint of beer.

16. Santorini, Greece

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If you want to see jaw-dropping scenery, be sure to add Santorini, Greece to your travel wish list. The emerald Mediterranean Sea is enough to take your breath away, but also the picturesque white villas are a sight to see too. Many people travel to Santorini with a partner or friend but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel there solo.

With friendly locals and an affordable bus system, you’ll be able to navigate your way across the city.

15. Paris, France

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Paris, France is known as the city of love. So it may seem ironic that one would travel there alone. However, exploring this beautiful city alone means that you don’t have to abide by anyone else’s opinions or plans. Further, exploring this city is easy and best to do either on foot or by taking the metro.

There are so many amazing things to see and do in Paris, France. Be sure to check out the iconic Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Arc de Triomphe. You should also enjoy a bottle of wine and a baguette all to yourself during your stay too.

14. London, England

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London, England is an excellent destination for solo female travels. Traveling through this city is easy from the amazing public transportation system to the remarkable hostels, hotels, and Airbnb’s. Not to mention English is their first language.

During your stay, be sure to visit Buckingham Palace, take a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and visit one of the many museums London has to offer. You should also dine at a local pub to indulge in traditional British food such as fish and chips, or a Toad in the hole. Further, dining at a pub will also help you meet the locals as well as other solo travelers too.

13. Oslo, Norway

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Oslo is a dream for female solo travelers, alas a bit expensive at times. It is Norway’s largest city and a great cultural city destination that is overflowing with things to see and do. Female solo travelers will feel safe no matter where they stay but may feel some extra comfort if they choose to stay on the women-only floor of the 130-year old Grand Hotel. Here they will find rooms stacked with books, magazines, a yoga mat, toiletries, and a female room-service menu, without the room service charge!

Wandering around the Vigeland Sculpture Park, which is 80 acres and feature 212 bronze and granite sculptures, you are sure to meet other solo travelers who will become quick friends. Head out to one of the many vibrant nightclubs or theaters with new-found travel friends for an unforgettable experience.

12. Dublin, Ireland

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Ireland is a very safe country. According to the Global Peace Index, Ireland ranks number 12 in the world. Further, as a female solo traveler, you will feel comfortable dining alone and you may even run into another solo traveler during your stay.

Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is laden with historic buildings including the captivating Dublin Castle. Some other great places to see are the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Museum of Ireland, and other must-see historic Attractions in Dublin.

11. Lisbon, Portugal

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Lisbon, Portugal is a wonderful place for female solo travelers. To begin, there are many safe and affordable hostels to stay in where you will meet many other solo travelers too. Secondly, Portugal ranks 3rd on the Global Peace Index.

Lisbon is full of rugged yet wonderful architecture and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Consider having a beach day all to yourself, or explore the Castelo de S. Jorge or the Jerónimos Monastery. Exploring this beautiful city is easy and can be done either by public transportation, on foot, or on a bike.

10. Stockholm, Sweden

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Built over 14 islands and connected by over 50 bridges this lovely cosmopolitan city is home to more than two million people. It is known for its gorgeous modern architecture, friendly people, and captivating waterways. Women are treated equally like men here and solo female travelers will face no issues in terms of harassment, drink spiking, or pickpocketing.

There is a slew of budget hostels throughout the city that are both affordable and safe, and a great way to connect with other travelers. This is a great city to experience Nordic culture in its modern and multicultural avatar, as well as dine on delightful local food. English is widely spoken here, and the locals are often teased for speaking a mix of Swedish and English-nicknamed Swinglish. Women will have no trouble finding people to talk to, tours to take and culture to experience here in Stockholm.

9. Cardiff, Wales

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Cardiff is the capital and largest city of Wales. This city is also considered one of Britain’s safer cities and for that reason, it is Wales’s most popular tourist destination. Along with being a safe city, Cardiff is full of culture, has many captivating castles and if you meet the locals they’ll surely share some of their ancient Welsh legends.

Further, students make up about 10% of Cardiff’s population which means younger female solo travelers will surely be well taken care of. There are many things to see and do in Cardiff. During your stay be sure to check out the National Museu, Cardiff Bay, and Cardiff Castle.

8. Helsinki, Finland

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The capital of Finland is one of the best cities for female solo travelers, thanks to its friendly locals, its reputation for being safe and beautiful. This walkable city is loaded with lovely parks, free city events, music, and shopping. Solo travelers will delight in the 20th-century architecture, the Helsinki Cathedral and the National Museum of Finland, which are always, home to other visitors.

One of the best things to do when you first get into the city is to take a walking tour, in order to fully appreciate the city’s cultural heritage, then move on to the shopping and dining. One cannot travel here without taking a dip in the Yrjönkatu Indoor Swimming Pool, (the oldest pool) built-in 1928. Recently renovated to house three pools and wonderful saunas, this is where women meet after work and have a sauna and swim followed by a drink, all done without any clothes on.

7. Prague, Czech Republic

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Immerse yourself in the alluring culture of the Czech Republic by visiting its capital, Prague. There is an abundance of things to see and do in the wonderful city of Prague.

Prague is not only a beautiful place to visit but the country, the Czech Republic ranks in the top 10 of the Global Peace Index. Consider meeting other solo travelers by taking a walking tour, or keep to yourself and explore one of their many museums, or even check out a show at the State Opera.

6. Copenhagen, Denmark

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The capital of Denmark is a vibrant and colorful city, which still manages to maintain a small-town feeling. New meets old in this fairytale-like city that features ancient buildings and towering glass and steel skyscrapers. Many of the state-run museums in this city are free admission, making it easy to save on spending and you can’t miss out on visiting the world’s oldest amusement park- Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park.

This city offers a unique experience that is perfect for female solo travelers called ‘Meet the Danes.’ This service arranges home-dinners with a Danish family or a single woman and her friend. Expect a traditional Danish meal and plenty of conversation with your new-found friends. Don’t miss the goddess Gefjun fountain that depicts the mythology of Denmark’s creation and magic within the Norse religion.

5. Barcelona, Spain

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Barcelona, Spain is known for its captivating architecture and art and would be a great destination for female solo travelers. For starters, the public transportation system is excellent. You’ll have the option of taking a bus, metro, trains, or trams, however, you will also be able to see a lot of the attractions on foot too. While Barcelona is generally safe, it’s always important to still take precautions such as keeping your personal belongings close by to prevent pickpocketing and don’t flash around money or expensive belongings.

During your stay be sure to check out the Sagrada Familia church, designed by Antoni Gaudi, and the Picasso Museum.

4. Zurich, Switzerland

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Zurich is an extremely safe city and therefore traveling alone as a female here is also incredibly safe, and downright breathtaking. Snow-capped Alps loom in the background, museums and art galleries line the streets and the nightlife is something to speak of. Female travelers will find no shortage of shopping to do here, cobblers, tailors, metalsmiths, candle makers, jewelry makers, and watchmakers fill the streets.

Choices of accommodations are endless here and if you feel nervous at all in this city we suggest heading over to Lady’s First Design Hotel, which was built especially for female travelers. The ancient center is the perfect place to stroll through the winding lanes and look up to the tall church steeples, stopping for coffee at sidewalk cafes. Further, Zuri-West is where to find the hottest nightlife in the city, just in case you are looking to meet new friends that want to dance the night away.

3. Sorento, Italy

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Sorento is a coastal town located in the southwestern part of Italy. This charming town faces the Bay of Naples on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Be sure to make your way to Piazzo Tasso, a central square in Sorrento that offers plenty of restaurants and shopping. Here you can try their famous Gelato, or drink a cup of delicious coffee.

Not only is there a lot to see and do in Sorento, but it’s also a popular vacation spot for Europeans. This means that you’ll hear a lot of English in both the restaurants and in the streets of Sorento which will only make traveling by yourself even easier. Further, you’ll find that it is easy to navigate around the town which will only add to a stress-free experience.

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Amsterdam received the nickname “Venice of the North” because it has many beautiful canals. This charming city has something for every type of female traveler. Whether you enjoy history, are a party animal, or prefer to simply take in the scenic view, Amsterdam has it all.

According to the Global Peace Index, the Netherlands ranks in the top 20 in the world.  There is plenty to see and do in Amsterdam and you will most likely run into other solo travelers too.

1. Reykjavik, Iceland

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It has been rated as the number one safest country for women to travel to alone and Iceland has been beckoning female solo travelers for as long as it can remember. This is the ultimate travel adventure for the traveler who loves the outdoors. Think glacier hiking in the Pingvellir National Park, skiing at Blafjoll, and Viking horse riding at Thingvellir.

If you aren’t the outdoorsy type, don’t worry there is plenty for you to do here including the chance to relax and de-stress in one of the many thermal pools and spas across the city. If you’re lucky you may even get to witness the famous Aurora Borealis. This city happens to be famously expensive though and we highly suggest staying at a hostel instead of a hotel to save money. This city is notoriously safe, even at night and as a female solo traveler, make sure you put Reykjavik on your bucket list.

The Easiest Places on Earth to Learn How to Surf

So you want to learn how to surf? Let us be the first to tell you that it probably isn’t going to be easy, especially if you make the rookie mistake of heading to some famous beach known for its huge swells. But learning this incredible sport doesn’t have to be that hard, as long as you know where to go. In this increasingly busy world, surfing is providing people with the chance to get back to nature, challenge themselves against the ocean and have a lot of fun. Heading to one of these 12 places will ensure that you are setting yourself up for success as they are among the easiest places on earth to learn how to surf.

12. Frank Island, Tofino, British Columbia

Tofino and beginners don’t often go hand in hand, especially in the winter season when the storms send huge waves crashing in, but head to Frank Island and you will understand why it’s the perfect place to learn. Frank Island is situated on the south end of Chesterman Beach and manages to knock down any powerful breaks and creates little baby waves perfect for learning. The water is cold, year round, after all this is Canada, so expect to wear a wetsuit here no matter what season you are surfing in. It is easy to find board rentals along with lessons in the town of Tofino as it is known as being the surfing capital of Canada. Snow covered glaciers, thousand year old trees, wandering black bears and bald eagles overhead complete this stellar location.

Surfing Tofino

11. Lagos, Portugal

You may not find any waves in the actual town of Lagos itself but a slew of opportunities await beginners with a 30 minute drive. This Algarve town is the base for many surf schools and it has long been know that surfing in Portugal is something to check off your bucket list. Surf Experience is the longest running surf school in the area, operating since 1992 and offers superior instruction and amazing accommodations. Beginner surfers often head to the protected break at Arrifana, a favorite for learning at low tide. In the downtime make sure to explore the town’s delicious eats, cheap cocktails and electric clubs that come alive after 10pm. Avoid traveling here during summertime when it is often crowded and prices are significantly higher.

Arrifana Portugal surfing

10. Taghazoute, Morocco

Since the 1970’s Europeans have been flocking to this destination in the wintertime to get their surfing in. VW campervans used to be parked beside the breaks as hardcore surfers took to the waters. Nowadays though, anyone can learn how to surf here, thanks to the abundance of surf schools that have popped up. Beginners should actually head here in early autumn as the weather is warmed and the swells are smaller. Head to the south where the surf camps almost outnumber the surf breaks for a variety of different options and budgets. Hash Point and the beaches around Agadir put up a good gentle learner wave and offer incredible surf camps. To the most out of your experience here we recommend joining a surf camp for at least 3 days and discovering the multitude of sandy beaches all within a 15 minutes drive.

Taghazoute, Morocco surfing

9. Bundoran, Ireland

Bundoran is known as the surf capital of Ireland and boasts some of the best surf schools in the entire country, making this destination an easy choice for learning how to surf. These waters aren’t for surfers who are looking to get a tan though and hailstorms are known to pummel riders out in the waves. There are a number of beach breaks that are perfect for beginners and hooking up with a local surf camp is the best to discover all of them. Visit here from September to November when the tourists have gone home and the water is warm(ish). Make sure to head to The Bridge Bar, situated overlooking the Peak—Ireland’s most famous reef break. This local hangout is a mix of old-school Ireland and surf culture, making it warm, friendly and a great place to meet locals and surfers.

Bundoran, Ireland surfing

8. Waikiki, Hawaii

It wouldn’t be a list of learning surfing spots without including the home of surfing itself. The ancient kings of Hawaii rode these waves themselves, on crude wooden boards, back before the 19th century missionaries frowned upon the sport. What you will find in Waikiki are gentle rolling waves littered with other beginner riders. For the most part these waves offer long rides and the atmosphere here is easy going and relaxed; something that can’t be said for all of the waters in this state. Canoes, an easy right break near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is the most popular beginner spot and can become quite crowded, although you are amongst beginners so catching a wave is quite easy. Warm sunny weather, warm water temperature and an “aloha” lifestyle makes this an excellent place to learn.

Waikiki, Hawaii

7. Byron Bay, Australia

It is easily one of the most iconic places to surf in the world, and one of the best places to learn. This sleepy dairy town was turned into a classic surf town in the 1960’s and surfers from all over the world travel here to surf in the legendary waters. The best time to visit is from March to May as the weather is warm and the swell is consistent. Beginners will likely want to head to Watego beach where because of its north facing direction; it’s completely protected from the big south swells and almost always has gently breaking waves. Make sure to check out Byron Bay Surf School for all your lessons and rental needs. They are one of the few companies licensed to teach on all the beaches in the area and will get you up and riding waves in no time.

Byron Bay, Australia

6. Nosara, Costa Rica

The town of Nosara is a little more protected than other popular surf spots in Costa Rica and beginners will find the laid back local vibe welcoming and accommodating. There are a number of accessible beach breaks just a short walk from town which are perfect for beginners. Add in year round warm waters, beautiful weather and incredible scenery and you will wonder why you are the only one on the beach. Finding someone to teach you how to surf is easy around here as there are many excellent surf schools and instructors lining the town. On down days make sure to check out the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, which is famous for its olive ridley and leatherback sea turtle populations.

Playa Avellanas Costa Rica

5. The Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area, Otter Rock, Oregon

Although you will have to squeeze your way into a wetsuit and booties, this sandy beach is the perfect location to learn to surf, especially if you are looking to stay in North America. Unlike the rest of the coast which is full of jagged rocks and high winds; this beach is protected by a huge headland. Known as the “Waikiki of Oregon”, everyone from this state who surfs has probably learned here and the locals are well used to beginners in their waters. The vibe is a mix of tourists, families, body boarders and beginners with no bad vibes to be seen. There are a number of surf shops in the area to rent a board or pick up a few lessons. Just make sure you are ready for the water temperature as it ranges between 48 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the year.

The Devil's Punchbowl Oregon

4. Inch Marlow, Barbados

If you have never thought of Barbados as a surf destination, you would be highly misinformed as the protected southern side of the island offers incredible year round waves, and some of them just happen to be perfect for beginners. What makes this location so special is the consistent trade wind which makes for long clean waves, perfect for beginners. Zed’s Surfing Adventures is where most people head to learn as it is run by former competitive surfer Zed Layson and offers both private and group lessons, designed to get you up and riding waves in no time. Along with excellent instructors there is a photographer on hand that will capture all you special moments. Rates are cheaper in the summer, alas it is the rainy season but if you don’t mind not getting a tan, there are great deals to be found.

Barbados beach

3. Playa El Sunzal, El Salvador

There is a lot of resistance in visiting El Salvador as it isn’t known to be the safest country in the world, but if you can get past the dangerous and violent crimes that often happen here, it’s an awesome place to learn how to surf. There are 300 days of surfable waves here, water temperature that stays in the 80’s and waves that roll on for hundreds of feet. It is the perfect place to learn with a longboard and learning, eating, drinking and lodging are incredibly cheap. You will have to be careful here of the rock bottom and paddling out can be long in the rainy season as currents pick up. Playa San Diego is another beach to hit for some beginner waves and features a huge sandy beach and very few people. Choice of accommodation is limited here but if you can rent a board and find room at the one hostel, you will find peace in the desertedness of this beach.

Playa El Sunzal, El Salvador

2. Piha Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

The awesome weather, the warm water temperature and the lagoon-like setup makes this an awesome spot to learn how to surf. The scenery isn’t too bad either with stunning black sand beaches. What makes this location so unique is the lagoon-like setup inside the beach’s outer sandbank. It allows beginners to stand in chest-deep water and catch “reform” waves—whitewash surf that has reformed into a second, mellower wave. It is entirely normal for complete beginners to catch 70- to 80-meter rides from the get-go, something entirely unheard of anywhere else. There are a number of surf schools around to get you up and on your way, or join a surf tour. If you want to avoid wearing a wetsuit make sure you visit between December and April. The best part about this beach, there are never any crowds to contend with, making your learning experience that much better.

Piha Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

1. Bali, Indonesia

From March to July, Bali is the number one best spot to learn the sport of surfing. The combination of warm weather, warm water and consistent waves makes this the ultimate spot for beginners. If you are learning you will want to head to Kuta Beach where there is a soft sandy bottom and small waves ranging from two to six feet. Although it can be a bit crowded at times, it is easy to hire a private instructor or join a surf school, for half of what it costs at home. If you want to stay away from Kuta Beach make sure to head over to Nusa Dua, which features a protective reef and good beginner waves. Seminyak is another good option if you are learning and offers many options for schools.

Bali, Indonesia beach

The Best Countries For Expats

As the world progresses, it has become increasingly easier to travel around the world and build a new life in a new country. It is still a huge change that can be at times, very scary! You want to make sure that where you move is safe and offers great amenities throughout the country. To make your life easier, we’ve compiled a list of locations that are great places to settle your family in for an adventure of a lifetime, with as many perks as possible.

 

1. Norway

Norway is an amazing place to settle in for a few years with the average expat salary landing at a solid $97,486. The best part is that the importance of having a good work/life balance is a huge priority so you won’t be spending hours and hours at the office.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

2. Sweden

Sweden is an amazing option for expats because of their excellent work environments. 71% of expats say the Swedish work environment is better than what they have experienced in their previous countries.

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3. Switzerland

Are you ready to make an amazing income and still have time for family? The average expat salary is a whopping $188,275 which is almost twice the global average. With a fantastic work environment and welcoming locals, how could this be a bad idea?

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4. Ireland

You always arrive thinking you’re just there for a season…and then ten years later you realize you’ll never leave. Surrounded with the ocean and quaint old towns, the fresh air will fill your lungs with that sense that you’ve finally made it home. It also helps that their first language is English so there won’t be any language barriers – just accent barriers!

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5. Malta

It has perfect weather. That should be enough to get you to move already but not only is there good weather, but there’s low taxes. And not only is there low taxes, but there’s great health care and a low cost of living. It’s amazing!

 

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6. Italy

If you are looking for a breathtaking location to learn about a new way of life, while eating incredible food made by even more incredible people, Italy is for you! Live here to get cultured and expand your horizons about what you know about the world.

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7. Finland

Filled with blue skies and aquamarine waters, Finland invites you in with their affordable schooling and high quality healthcare. The general population also has a very high level of overall well being.

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8. Canada

Not to be biased here, but with everything that’s happening in the world, I’ve never been more thankful to live in Canada. Not only is it safe and welcoming, but we celebrate diversity and are generally environmentally conscious. If these attributes of Canada appeal to you, moving here will not be a mistake!

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9. Netherlands

With a beautiful set of cities, the Netherlands invites you to cycle through these cities as a primary mode of transportation. Many English speakers live here, so you will always have someone around to help you translate Dutch if you need some help.

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10. France

France is a classic place to move to if you are looking for a change because of it’s timeless beauty and fame around the world for romance. With an average of a 35 hour work week and a 90 minute lunch break, you have yourself a well balanced lifestyle. Oh ya, and there’s also wine at every meal.

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10 Memorable Places Best Visited By Cruise Ship

When planning your next vacation, there are a variety of trips you can go on. Will you fly to an all-inclusive resort and lay on the beach? Will you rent a car and go on a road trip down a beautiful coastline? How about a backpacking adventure? One of the options that is always present, is going on a cruise. Cruises are a great way to see a variety of locations in a short amount of time, while travelling in comfort and class. The best part about a cruise, is that you only have to unpack once!

 

1. Alaska

Visit this isolated and chilly part of the world from the comfort of a cozy cruise ship cabin. You are able to see Humpback Wales, Bears, Hawks and Moose, just to name a few of our animal friends that will be waiting for you in Alaska. Denali National Park is also one of the sites you can explore on some Alaskan cruises and it features the highest point in North America.

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2. Hawaii

With so many islands and a limited amount of holiday time, cruises are a great way to get a taste of each Hawaiian island in a short time span. Many Hawaiian cruises will feature a lot of the Hawaiian culture and traditions to help you feel like you’re on an island, even when you’re cruising through the ocean. When the boat makes stops, there are so many once in a lifetime opportunities to try out on each island such a helicopter tours, hiking, rafting and so much more. The scenery is to die for!

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3. Caribbean

If you are wanting to go on a trip to the Caribbean, it can be difficult to decide where to go and what island to see. On a cruise ship, you can see a wide variety of the Caribbean islands. Then, in a few years you can fly to the island that was your favorite on the cruise and make the most of that location. Another winning factor of going on a cruise here, is that it is very family oriented.

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4. Mediterranean

Are you looking for a visually stunning location with tons of history? Take a Mediterranean cruise, and I promise, you will not be disappointed! These cruises are ideal for mature, adult travellers who are looking for some enriching experiences and peacefulness.

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5. Norway

Throw on a thick sweater, a good book and some slippers and cruise around Norway. These cruises are special because of the amount of daylight that is present for a large portion of each day. It allows you to see the maximum amount of scenery in a good amount of time. You also get to experience entering the Arctic Circle where there is a noticeable change in the water, temperature and overall climate.

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6. The Cook Islands

When you see islands like this, you probably think it’s in the Caribbean. The actual fact is that this set of islands is halfway in between Hawaii and New Zealand. It has an untouched quality about it and the best part about it is that there is no bad time to visit! The lowest temperature in the winter is 18 degrees Celsius. See all of the Cook Islands on a breathtaking cruise to ensure you won’t miss a thing.

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7. The Nile

Have you ever considered cruising down the Nile River? The best time to go is between October and April for between 3-7 days. These cruises allow you to visit many historical sites such as the Valley Of The Kings and countless temples. You also have the opportunity to hire a private tour guide to show you all the sites along the way.

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8. Australia and New Zealand

Aside from the stunning views and peaceful locations, this cruise will lead you and your loved ones to the Great Barrier Reef to see incredible fish and other wildlife. Your experience of a lifetime will also be highlighted by cruising through the Tasmanian Wilderness where you will see more wildlife and breathtaking locations.

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9. The Baltic

Where does a Baltic cruise go you ask? It travels to Russia, Estonia, Poland and Germany, just to name a few locations. The incredible architecture and historic locations are enough to convince you to sign up for one of these tours. One advantage is that there is very short distances between ports because there is so much to explore. You will be transported to a fairy tale when you are walking through these magical old towns.

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10. England, Scotland and Ireland

When you think of a cruise, you probably don’t think of these countries first. As someone who has been on a ship in the Irish Sea, I can say it is completely worth it. See ruins of castles and heart stopping landscapes that make incredible photos. These cruises also feature culturally accurate cuisine so you won’t miss out on the perks of the mainland.

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6 Outstanding Counties in Ireland

Ireland is nothing short of fulfilling with striking landscapes and visions of natural allure. The Atlantic brings welcome, warm geothermal gusts and the rare geological wealth is astounding. The dramatic diversity of landscapes, from cities to mountains, is mesmerizing and a boon for tourism. Contrasts throughout counties are esteemed, from rugged coastlines fringing island clusters to ancient boglands alongside lily-covered meadows. Sacred associations, fiery history, and some of the most unique people in the world merge together creating a destination rich with fascinating, friendly culture perfect for the curious and adventurous traveler.

6. County Antrim

Perhaps one of the best-known Irish counties, County Antrim is Ireland’s capital and a gem of a place. Belfast is here, strongly shaped by politics and history, and home to some of the most witty and interesting people in Ireland. The treasures are never-ending: sports, dance, culture, arts, attractions, shopping, and historical landmarks play key roles in the city’s busy tourism sector. Belfast’s most famous pub, The Crown Liquor Saloon, is an old world setting and one of the most impressive pubs in the world. Victorian architecture meets vibrant tiles, hand carved oak screens, painted and stained glass, and private booths alongside the breathtaking bar. Classical Renaissance style City Hall and The Linen Hall Library packed with work from important Irish authors are also must-sees. Traveling out of Belfast, the world-famous Causeway Coastal Route and Giant’s Causeway are incredible natural wonders surrounded by castles, historic bridges, and postcard-perfect vistas.

County Antrim

5. County Clare

On the west side of Ireland is County Clare, filled with dreamy seascapes, cliffs, preserved landscapes, caves, and lakes. The 700-foot high Cliffs of Moher facing the wild waters of the Atlantic are part of The Burren, an ancient karst landscape spanning more than 500 square miles, appearing as an otherworldly sight the county’s northwest. The Cliffs of Moher are majestic, and run along Clare’s west coast for more than 10 kilometers with sandstone and shale ledges creating homes for myriad bird species and are a point where views of Connemara and the Mountains of Kerry come into play. Folk Park and Bunratty Castle are authentic attractions from the Middle Ages attracting tourists from around the world. Discovered in the 1940s, tours of Alwee Caves showcase underground waterfalls, deep caverns, stalactite and stalagmite formations. The caves even house the remains of now-extinct 1000-year-old brown bears.

County Clare

4. County Cork

County Cork is Ireland’s largest county and another well-known destination pertinent to tourism. Lively and unique, it is Ireland’s second biggest city filled with distinct people who bestow the city its colourful character. In 650, a monastery was built on land that was eventually developed into Cork city over time. Flourishing along the River Lee banks where the water splits into two separate channels, Cork is an island connected to the mainland by 16 bridges. Unspoiled Sheepshead Peninsula is an inspiring place for cycling and walking along the very accessible and almost 90-kilometer trail winding along roads and old tracks and spotted with cliffs, rugged hills, and beautiful coastlines. Beautiful Inchydoney Beach, Fota Wildlife Park, the Healy Pass scenic drive, and Fort Camden are part of Cork’s attractive landscape and historic landmarks, and cultural treasures. Blarney Castle and Gardens, nearby Kinsale (the gourmet capital of Cork), are more esteemed county attractions.

County Cork

3. County Donegal

County Donegal is laden with nature’s bounty, evident across white sand beaches, pristine water, tranquil boglands, and the nature reserve of Glenveagh National Park where woodlands, lakes, and mountain scenery paint the landscape beautiful. Glenveagh Castle is at the heart of it all, surrounded by natural attractions and lovely in its Victorian architectural style. Climbing, surfing, diving, and back country walks are ideal activities for Donegal’s rugged and rough terrain.  Get into the thick of authentic language in the Irish-speaking district of Donegal Gaeltacht; walk lengthy dune systems overlooking the Atlantic; or take a spectacular drive to Horn Head Loop northwest off Donegal’s main road. It’s an almost cliff-hanging adventure following a short but a magnificent route with twists and turns and sweeping views of the Atlantic below. If that’s too nerve-wracking opt for peaceful walks at Lough Eske or meet in the middle and hike the Glenevin Waterfall trail.

Maria J / Shutterstock.com
Maria J / Shutterstock.com

2. County Galway

Managed and controlled by just 14 families throughout Medieval times, County Galway became known as the City of Tribes. It flourished in its advantageous position at the concourse of Galway Bay alongside the River Corrib. Today, Galway is a university city, and a flourishing one at that. It provides visitors with vibrant nightlife in a hopping pub scene and it feels as though music is at every corner’s turn, especially in the summer festival season. Escaping the city for some fresher air is as easy as heading north to the wild beauty of Connemara at the county’s western tip where you’ll be sure to hear plenty of Gaelic. Another spot filled with Gaelic speakers is the Aran Islands with Inis Moir being the biggest of the group of three. County Galway also has an incredible vibrant art scene, with scores of fascinating galleries, both conventional and unconventional.

Vincent MacNamara / Shutterstock.com
Vincent MacNamara / Shutterstock.com

1. County Kerry

In Ireland’s southwest is County Kerry, flanked by the River Shannon on the north, facing the Atlantic Ocean and ideal with a temperate climate that allows swimming all year. Mountains prevail here–Kerry is the most mountainous of any Irish county–adding plenty of depth to surrounding scenery and opening up a host of outdoor possibilities. Another great feature of County Kerry is the coast, and all the islands lying off of it. The Skellig Mountain range is just one of two World Heritage Sites celebrated for the cliff-side medieval monastery that appears to be taking a tumble over but has remained static for centuries. Drive the edges of Iveragh Passage and enjoy one of Kerry’s best scenic routes passing mountains, rugged coastline, and frothy ocean waves or take in all Killarney National Park offers throughout thickly wooded forests, landmarks, and moorland cut with plenty of trails for easy to moderate journeys.

County Kerry

7 Beautiful and Underrated Cities in the UK

The UK is brimming with cities full of medieval architecture, breathtaking cathedrals, lively green spaces and fascinating history. Indeed most people flock to the cities of London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool where they fight crowds of tourists and visit overrated attractions. The secret of visiting the UK is to find the hidden gems, the underrated, the beautiful and the closely guarded. From England to Scotland to Ireland, we have discovered 7 of these cities, who offer a slew of incredible attractions and beautiful buildings.

7. Lincoln, England

Back in the day this city was actually a pretty big deal, in fact it housed the world’s tallest cathedral for over 250 years, along with a castle, two universities and plenty more attractions. Visitors will want to pay a visit to the incredible cathedrals as it boasts amazing stained glass windows, an interior full of intricate carvings in stone and wood, and the ruins of the Bishop’s Old Palace beside it. It is here where you will find 14th and 15th century medieval buildings as well as the oldest bridge in England to have houses built upon it. Don’t miss out of ‘Steep Hill’, a street full of small independent shops. Lincoln is also home to one of the only four surviving copes of Magna Carta, dating back to the 13th century and visitors here should plan a trup to Lincoln Castle and discover a piece of human history.

Lucian Milasan / Shutterstock.com
Lucian Milasan / Shutterstock.com

6. Cardiff, Wales

It is one of the most pleasant cities in the UK, boasting a magnificient castle, innovative architecture and great people. This Welsh capital once started as a Roman fort and since the 11th century the Cardiff Castle has held court where the fort once stood. It has not been considered a pretty city by any means in the past but times are changing and major regeneration projects have been occurring over the past decade. Think a brand new performing center, a revamped waterfront and a 74,000 seat stadium; just to name a few. The free National Museum Cardiff should absolutely be on your list of things to do in this city, as well as attend one of the infamous rugby matches. Markets, awesome dining options, impressive accommodations await visitors to this city which is becoming more beautiful as time goes on.

Cardiff, Wales

5. Sheffield, England

This city isn’t known for its castles, souped up riverside docks, cobbled streets or typical tourist attractions, but there is a lot to Sheffield that makes it both unique and fun to visit. Plan on arriving here by train where you are greeted by a stunning waterfall just outside the station. Visitors will want to head to the Winter Garden-the largest urban glass house in Europe-home to over 2,000 plants from around the world. There also happens to be more than 250 parks, woodlands and gardens throughout the city, giving this city the highest ratio of trees to people of any city in Europe. Did we mention that it is also home to the world’s oldest football club? Throw in the medieval Anglican cathedral, two theatres, a slew of restaurants and pubs and some of the friendliest people in the north and you have yourself one pretty epic city.

Sheffield, England

4. Belfast, Ireland

It has been avoided, forgotten and underrated for the better part of half a century. But this city is slowly making a new name for itself as it reinvents itself with award-winning architecture, a vibrant restaurant scene and lovely locals. This small and walkable city encourages visitors to stroll through its beautiful botanic gardens and the cobbled Cathedral Quarter that teams with restaurants, pubs and arts venues. Visitors will not want to miss a visit to the Metropolitan Arts Centre which is a shining star in terms of stunning architecture, an asymentrical tower of brick and volcanic stone that houses seven stories of high-ceilinged galleries and unique reading nooks. Massive regenerations projects have improved the old dockyards, Victoria Square and the waterfront, which boasts some of the most impressive nightlife in the UK.

Belfast

3. Chester, England

This city is more than 2,000 years old which means plenty of history, culture and architecture await visitors here. Chester boasts the more complete city walls in the country, the largest undiscovered ampitheatre in the UK and a slew of breathtaking medieval buildings. It is easy to walk around this city as the Roman grid pattern of streets have survived the years, and trust us you will want to walk in order to take in the historic towers and gates that adourn the Roman walls. Chester Cathedral is located in the heart of the city and deserves a visit, as does the beautiful River Dee, Roodee Racecourse and the pretty Grosvenor Park. Hit up the independent galleries and boutiques, dine on local Cheshire produce and stay in anything from a luxury hotel to a quaint cabin in this beautiful, yet highly underrated English city.

Chester, England

2. Nottingham, England

It is best known as the home of Robin Hood, but that is about it and tourists tend to skip by this charming English town. The men in tights are long gone in this city and instead you will find a castle, which sits atop a labyrinth of ancient tunnels, England’s oldest inn- Ye Olde Trip to Jeruslaem- which is built into a cliff face and is said to have a chair that makes any woman pregnant, and much more. Visitors will want to head to the Galleries of Justice Museum where you can explore the gruesome history of crime and punishment. Or how about the City of Caves, where you will descend far below street level and discover just a few of the 500 man-made sandstone caves that date back to medieval times. Beautiful buildings include Wollaton Hall, Newstead Abbey and Nottingham Castle.

Nottingham caves

1. Stirling, Scotland

Stirling is Scotland’s heritage capital, a place where the Wars of Independence were fought and won and where for three centuries monarchs ruled in regal splendor. This cobbled old town in much quieter than Edinburgh and offers much in the way of history, architecture, culture and attractions. Visitors will find themselves winding their way up to the dominant castle which offers an incredible view for miles. Keep your eye out for the Wallace Monument, a Victoria Gothic creation that was made to honour the legendary freedom fighter of Braveheart fame, and looks so gothic it deserves at least a a few circling bats. Take a ghost walk, visit the museum and gallery, go whisky tasting or hang with the monkeys at the safari park. Whatever you do though, don’t miss exploring the Old Town and the picturesque path that encircles it.

Stirling, Scotland monument

The Top 8 Pet-Friendly Vacation Destinations in Europe

For many people, pets are more than just a companion—they’re like family. That means many of us like to travel with our pets. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opinion of our four-legged friends and, in many places, you’ll find that Fido isn’t welcome to join you. Things are a bit a different in Europe: many countries are incredibly pet-friendly, which makes them perfect destinations for pet lovers from around the world. Here are 8 pet-friendly stops in Europe.

8. Norway

The Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark and Norway tend to get a bad rap with travelers who want to bring their pets with them on holiday; these 3 Northern European countries are considerably less pet-friendly than other European countries. Still, that doesn’t mean pets are never welcome. A good example is Norway’s famed fjords, which you can tour via cruise liner. Your dog is more than welcome to join you on the trip and will be treated as a guest too. Oslo, Norway’s capital, has many pet-friendly hotels, so finding accommodations for you and Fido shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. Norway also has plenty of open space, meaning travelers and their dogs can get their daily exercise. Shops, restaurants and public transit pose more of a challenge to four-legged travelers, who may not be welcome inside most establishments.

dogs in Norway

7. United Kingdom

With the introduction of the (PETS), the United Kingdom has become an even friendlier destination for you and your four-legged friend. More and more visitors are bringing their pets with them on holiday, most notably those from other EU countries; cats and dogs arriving from North America and other places are still required to enter quarantine on arrival. Once quarantine is over, however, the U.K. opens up to four-legged travelers. The National Rail system allows dogs of all sizes, provided they’re leashed, which means you can travel anywhere you want, whether it’s Cornwall in the south or north to the Scottish Highlands. The British Isles also offer plenty of green space with lots of national parks to visit, which makes for ideal dog-walking conditions. Pet-friendly accommodations are available throughout the U.K.

puppy on a train

6. Ireland

Some parts of Ireland are pet-friendly, while other parts are not so friendly toward four-legged travel companions. Dublin is often considered very pet-friendly, and many restaurants and cafes are quite happy to have your pup accompany you on outdoor terraces and patios, provided that they’re leashed. Hotels and other accommodations are often pet-friendly as well, although you want to call ahead and ensure that Fido is welcome. While dogs are often unwelcome on walking trails, particularly because they cut through sheep country, a few trails welcome leashed dogs: Killarney National Park admits four-legged friends, as do some of the trails in the Wicklow Mountains (although not the Wicklow Way). Your best bet in Ireland is to take a cottage vacation—a popular option with pet owners, since you’ll be in the countryside.

killarney national park with dog

5. Netherlands

The Netherlands are perhaps most famous for being incredibly cyclist-friendly, but Dutch cities like Amsterdam are also rather pet-friendly. Much like other parts of Europe, many restaurants are pet-friendly, often allowing diners to bring their leashed pet with them to outdoor dining areas. Hotels are often pet-friendly, and shops may allow dogs inside (although it’s best to ask). Amsterdam in particular recommends itself as a great pet-friendly destination for those traveling with dogs, thanks to plentiful parks. Vondelpark, the largest and best-known in the city, is a great location, while Oosterpark is divided into 2 zones: a children’s zone that is dog-free and the other where dogs are welcome. This park is well-known to the locals and is becoming more popular with tourists traveling with their pooches.

dog and windmill

4. Switzerland

Think of Switzerland and you’ll probably think of Bernese mountain dogs and St. Bernards bounding through the snow to rescue stranded skiers in the Alps. Given dogs’ importance, it should be little surprise that the Swiss are fond of dogs—and of four-legged travelers. Most restaurants are more than happy to welcome you and your furry dining companion (even if Fido won’t be ordering off the menu). Like other places in Europe, dogs are also welcome in most shops and hotels, although you might call ahead to ask about specific pet policies. Public transit is also pet-friendly; all cats and dogs are allowed on trains, although you’ll often need to purchase a half-price, second-class fare for animal companions. Smaller animals may be required to sit in a purse or basket for travel—but it’s still better than boxing your friend up in a carrier.

dog in engadine switzerland

3. Italy

Italians love their furry friends and most of the time, you’ll be able to bring your dog with you into stores, hotels and even restaurant dining areas. Northern Italy is usually considered to be more dog-friendly than the south, but Rome is also cited as one of the most dog-friendly destinations in Europe. Yes, even in a big tourist center, dogs are more than welcome. Public transit also welcomes furry travelers, often without a carrier, although a muzzle may be required during your ride. Some places may also ask you to purchase a fare for your four-legged travel companion—although often at a discount of 50% or more. Most hotels will welcome pets, although some charge extra fees. Good practice is to call ahead to to a restaurant or hotel before you make your reservations.

cat in Italy

2. Germany

While Germany isn’t the most pet-friendly place in Europe, the country is pretty friendly toward your four-legged friends. Much like other parts of Europe, pets are welcome on public transit, so long as they are on a leash; a muzzle may be required, but there’s no reason to put your pup in a carrier. Small dogs are often welcome in the dining areas of restaurants, although larger breeds may not be as welcome. Dogs are often welcome in shops as well, and you can expect most accommodations to be pet-friendly. Of course, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and ensure that Fido will be welcome—and to suss out if there’s any additional fees for having him tag along with you to dinner or to your hotel.

dog at octoberfest

1. France

If you’ve ever wanted to visit Paris and lunch at a bistro, but can’t bear the thought of leaving Fido out of the experience, don’t fret. France is consistently rated as the most pet-friendly country in all of Europe—and that’s saying something, considering how pet-friendly most European countries are. Dogs are more commonly permitted into dining areas than not; in fact, it would be strange to see an owner leave their dog outside while they went into a shop or restaurant. As a result, many hotels are pet-friendly, as are other establishments. If you plan to travel about, public transit is also pet-friendly, allowing you to take your pet with you on the train, often on a leash rather than in a carrier. So go ahead and make your dream trip to France a whole-family affair!

yorkie at paris cafe

The 10 Best Stargazing Spots in the Northern Hemisphere

We’ve told you where to find the best views of the heavens in the southern half of the world; the southern hemisphere’s positioning makes it a particularly good location for aspiring astronomers to get a glimpse of our galaxy. But that doesn’t mean that those of us in the northern hemisphere have to miss out on awe-inspiring starscapes. There are dozens of dark-sky reserves and parks and prime viewing spots in more northerly climes. You’ll want to pack your telescope if you plan to travel to any of these 10 locations.

10. Brecon Beacons National Park, United Kingdom

Head to south Wales and you’ll quickly find that sheep outnumber people in this part of the world. Brecon Beacons National Park is a prime stargazing location because of its seclusion. The ruins of the Llanthony Priory provide a stunning backdrop for the night sky. The area near the park is home to 33,000 people and within easy access for nearly 1 million, which means that residents have worked hard to ensure that lighting within the communities near the park are dark sky-friendly. Most of the park is open grass moorland, which makes for plenty of open viewing of the night sky. The park was originally designated in 1957, and in 2013, it became an official International Dark Sky Association Dark Sky Reserve. Once you’ve done some stargazing, be sure to step into the Priory to grab some authentic Welsh ale—the ruins have been converted into a pub.

Llanthony Priory

9. Westhavelland, Germany

The Westhavelland Nature Park, in the state of Brandenburg, Germany, was established in June 1998. With an area of 1,315 square kilometers, the park is the largest protected area in Brandenburg and is home to the largest contiguous wetland in all of Europe. It has also become renowned for its dark skies, despite being just 70 kilometers west of Berlin, Germany’s most populous city. Its location also means easy access for the nearly 6 million people living in the region—and tourists to Berlin. The Dark Sky Reserve, which was certified by the IDA in 2014, is approximately 750 square kilometers within the park. The park offers an extensive education program, including the annual WestHavellander AstroTreff Party and an interpretive program. The Milky Way shines in full splendor over Germany’s first and foremost “star park”!

Brandenburg Milky Way

8. Mauna Kea, United States

Although there are several locations in the Hawaiian islands that are prime stargazing spots, Mauna Kea has to claim the top spot. Located on the Big Island, Mauna Kea Observatory sits 13,756 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level, on the slopes of the mountain, high above the town of Hilo. Here you’ll be able to see northern hemisphere favorites, including the Milky Way, Ursa Major, the bands of Jupiter and Orion, with perfect clarity. Although the largest optical telescope in the world will be off-limits after nightfall, you can still peer through telescopes offered at the visitors’ center, located at 9,200 feet. Free lectures and Q&A sessions at the observatory are complemented by tour packages offered by adventure companies, some of which include dinner. Although Mauna Kea isn’t an IDA-certified site, it remains a popular location for stargazers from around the world.

Mauna Kea night sky

7. Tenerife, Spain

You can probably pick any of Spain’s Canary Islands to get a good view of the stars. In fact, the island of La Palma is a protected area, although it’s not officially a park or reserve. For the best views, however, hop over to Tenerife, the largest island in the chain. Tenerife has passed a law controlling flight paths, specifically with the quality of stargazing in mind. From April through December, you can take a tour of the Teide Observatory. Visitors can also enjoy a cable car ride up to the top of the volcanic Mount Teide to really get a good gander at the stars. Cap off an evening by enjoying dinner at the mountain-top restaurant, with the stars as the romantic backdrop. The semi-annual Starmus Festival is also a popular attraction, celebrating science, music and the arts.

Tenerife Night sky

6. Kiruna, Sweden

The northernmost settlement in Sweden, the town of Kiruna lies about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which means that between December 11 and January 1, there is a period of continuous night. While some of us may not be enthused by the idea of constant darkness, it does make for an amazing opportunity to view some of the spectacular skies. Given the remote location, the skies are truly dark, creating the perfect canvas for the aurora borealis. Visitors can book a stay at the world-famous Icehotel, just 11 miles from Kiruna in Jukkasjarvi. Nighttime “picnics” are offered on northern lights tours. Other activities include ice-sculpting and wintertime sports like skiing. You can also tour the Esrange Space Center, which developers hope to turn into a spaceport in the near future.

Sweden aurora borealis

5. Cherry Springs State Park, United States

There may not seem to be a lot of reason to visit Pennsylvania, but stargazers are drawn to the 82-hectare Cherry Springs State Park. This highly regarded site provides one of the best glimpses into the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The park sits atop a 2,300-foot (701 meter) peak, which allows you to leave civilization (and light pollution) down on the ground. The park offers various programs throughout the year, including its annual Black Forest Star Party in early September, a popular event for amateur astronomers. In 2014, stargazers were lucky enough to spot the aurora borealis not once, but 4 times in Cherry Springs. First designated a dark sky park by the state in 2000, Cherry Springs was proclaimed an International Dark Sky Park by the IDA in June 2007.

Photo by: karenfoleyphotography/Alamy via Travel and Lesiure
Photo by: karenfoleyphotography/Alamy via Travel and Lesiure

4. Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, Ireland

The County Kerry in Ireland is considered one of the most picturesque areas in the country. Situated between the Kerry Mountains and the vast Atlantic Ocean, the Iveragh Peninsula is home to the Ring of Kerry, with numerous scenic attractions along its length. In 2011, the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve became the only gold-tier reserve in the northern hemisphere, and it was officially designated in January 2014. The night sky has long been important to the inhabitants of the region; Neolithic stone formations dating to 6,000 years ago were used to observe astronomical events and track the sun and moon. The area, which is approximately 700 square kilometers, incorporates territory along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is naturally protected from light pollution, although the inhabitants are working to create dark sky-compliant lighting systems to improve the quality of the night skies even more.

ring of kerry

3. Jasper National Park, Canada

Jasper, located in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, is probably one of Canada’s most famous national parks. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was also declared a dark-sky preservation area in March 2011. Although Jasper is not certified by the IDA, sites in Canada must adhere to the strict guidelines set out by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The guidelines were developed to protect wildlife that is sensitive to light pollution. Every October, Jasper holds a Dark Sky Festival, which includes daytime solar viewings and rocket launches to entertain the kids. There are approximately 100 year-round campsites scattered throughout the park, meaning that you don’t need to visit in the fall to get some spectacular views of the night sky over the Canadian Rockies.

Jasper at night

2. Zselic Landscape Protection Area, Hungary

In the past, the starry skies were essential for Hungarian shepherds guiding their flocks back to fold. Today, Hungary is home to some of the best dark skies in the world; in August 2015, Wanderlust named it the third-best stargazing spot in the world. Zselic Starry Sky Park is located within the National Landscape Protection Area, which was originally established in 1976 to protect the natural assets of the North Zselic region. The Triangulum Galaxy is visible to the naked eye here, and in the spring, you can spot Orion and the Orion Nebula, along with the zodiacal light. The Lighting Society of Hungary and 17 surrounding municipalities have worked with the park to minimize the impact of lighting both within and outside the 9,042 hectares of parkland.

Photo by: RAFAEL SCHMALL / SCHMALL RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo by: RAFAEL SCHMALL / SCHMALL RAFAEL PHOTOGRAPHY

1. Natural Bridges National Monument, United States

This Utah national park was the first IDA-designated International Dark Sky Park, declared in 2007. The park is renowned for its 3 natural bridge formations (hence its name), one of which is the second-largest in the world. The area was first designated a park in 1908. In the summer, the park provides astronomy ranger programs to help share its gorgeous nighttime skies with some of the 95,000 people that visit each year. The Milky Way is very clearly visible and the desert conditions of the area make for many nights of clear viewing throughout the year. During an assessment by the NPS Night Sky Team, the park registered as a Class 2 on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, making it one of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states.

Utah stars