The 12 Most Unique Hostels For Your Next Adventure

Hostels were once regarded as shady, filth ridden places that most people agreed should be avoided at all costs. While this may still true of some places out there, thanks to the internet gifting us all with access to immense amounts of information, including hotel reviews and visitor testimonies, lodgings around the world have been forced to step up their competitive game. Staying in a clean, comfortable and centrally located room no longer means forking out hundreds of dollars a night or greatly compromising on quality. It also means that tons of creative, one of a kind accommodations have come out of the woodwork, offering visitors an experience that is so much more than just a bunk-bed dorm and shared facilities. So for those on a budget and looking for a truly unique stay, here are 12 of the world’s most amazing budget hostel accommodations:

12. Hostel Old Plovdiv – Plovdiv, Bulgaria

You can let your old soul shine through and reminisce about days gone by in this boutique-style hostel furnished almost exclusively with antiques. Housed in a historic building in an ancient part of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the property exudes an old-world vibe that is in keeping with its surroundings, and provides a truly unique home base as you explore this beautiful city. While the hostel maintains character from top to bottom, architecture to décor, the hosts make sure to offer a wide variety of amenities for the convenience of their guests, including free breakfast, WiFi and parking, as well as a host of organized adventure and culture-based daytime excursions.

Photo by: Hostel Old Plovdiv
Photo by: Hostel Old Plovdiv 

11. Dawson City River Hostel – Yukon, Canada

For those of you who are looking to explore the Canadian North and for whom the idea of “unique” translates to “rustic”—and we do truly mean rustic, not just exposed beams and wood trim—Canada’s northernmost hostel is the place for you. Located on the western side of the Yukon River, overlooking the city of Dawson, the region is not connected to the city power grid or water supply, allowing owner Dieter Reinmuth to stay true to his vision of providing a true northern-living experience. This place will bring out your adventurous side as you disconnect from those newfangled notions of electricity and technology, and immerse yourself in the nature of simplistic cabins, outdoor cooking and fire-wood heated bathing facilities. Visitors also have access to bikes, canoes, and heaps of information on what to explore in the area, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to broaden their horizons and/or break out of their modern-living comfort zone.

Photo by: Dawson City River Hostel
Photo by: Dawson City River Hostel

10. Capsule Ryokan – Kyoto, Japan

In true Japanese-style efficiency, the Capsule Ryokan in Kyoto offers the very traditional style of hostel bunk beds with a very unique twist. Each bunk can actually be enclosed “capsule style” and transformed into your very own quarters, complete with personal air conditioning, a wall-mounted flat screen TV and a storage locker. The hostel also offers traditional Japanese-style private rooms, a common lounge area and a refreshing dose of culture—daily kimono fittings!

Photo by: Capsule Ryokan Kyoto
Photo by: Capsule Ryokan Kyoto

9. City Hostel Seattle – Washington, USA

This artistic paradise is unique not only in concept but in its very décor –each room is one of a kind, decorated by a different local artist. The fact that it’s housed in the historic Lorraine Hotel (popular celebrity haunt of the 1930s) and offers free movies in its in-house movie theater only adds to its super eclectic vibe. This, along with its free breakfast, extremely helpful staff and a central location has earned it a place as one of the best-rated budget accommodations in the city of Seattle.

Photo by: Hung On The World
Photo by: Hung On The World

8. Ottawa Jail Hostel – Ontario, Canada

If you’ve ever had a hankering to spend the night in the slammer (you know, without all of those pesky legal and ethical hurdles), take a trip to Canada’s capital city and live your dream! The Ottawa Jail Hostel is a 150 year old converted prison in heart of the city, and provides accommodation in cells themselves (dorm-style) and in former officers’ quarters (private rooms, usually for families). The hostel also offers a variety of freebies; WiFi, breakfast and daily jail tours are all included, as well as the priceless feature of awesome hosts, who, on their website state, “If you are lucky, you can also meet a ghost…free of charge! No need to thank us.” Free ghosts AND a touch of sass? Sold.

Photo by: Deano World Travels
Photo by: Deano World Travels

7. Clayzy House – Ko Lanta, Thailand

Attention all free-spirited, adventure-seeking, eco-conscious music and art lovers (yep, that’s right), because the Clayzy House hostel community on Thailand’s west coast just might become your second home. Built entirely by hand from local materials such as mud, bamboo and driftwood, the hostel provides both tree house style and dorm accommodations and exudes a laid-back, artsy vibe for travelers who love nature and don’t mind “roughing it” (floors are made of mud and washroom facilities are shared.) The place also offers frequent open mic nights, seemingly endless floor-to-ceiling artwork and a pristine location that is just steps from the beach. Additionally, the on-site bar, common area slung with hammocks and steady stream of reggae and rock music have helped solidify the hostel’s reputation as having one of the best shared accommodation atmospheres in the world, with many past lodgers admitting they stayed much longer than initially planned.

Photo by: Lanta Clayzy House
Photo by: Lanta Clayzy House

6. Tulia House Backpackers – Mombasa, Kenya

While much of this hostel on Mombasa’s coast fits the bill for standard budget accommodation, with both private and dorm-style rooms, it offers one truly unique (and extremely cool) opportunity—the chance to spend an African-style night. Visitors have the option to forego typical bunk bed dorms and stay in a traditionally constructed building that is complete a sand floor and curtained exterior walls, and sleep on a suspended Funzi hammock (linens and a mosquito net are provided for comfort). The hostel also has a stellar social scene, with outdoor movie nights, poolside BBQs, beer pong tournaments and speedboat excursions to nearby beach bars.

Photo by: Afriken Travel
Photo by: Afriken Travel

5. Fauzi Azar Inn – Nazareth, Israel

Housed in a 200-year-old mansion in the heart of Nazareth’s Old City, The Fauzi Azar Inn provides a stunning home base for travelers interested in exploring Galilee. The inn offers uniquely decorated dorms and private rooms and is centrally located within walking distance to all major sites, including the souq (open air market), the Basilica of Annunciation and the White Mosque. The hostel building itself is also a sight to behold, featuring a hand-painted ceiling and marble floors, and the hospitality and endless efforts of the hosts are unparalleled, offering visitors free breakfast, free daily walking tours and free cake!

Photo by: Five Holles
Photo by: Five Holles

4. Mushroom Point – Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Exactly as the name implies, both the communal dorm and the private rooms in this small hostel are straw huts shaped to look like mushrooms, earning it a place as one of the most creative hostels out there. Another distinguishing feature is that there is not one bunk bed to be seen across the entire property, with sleeping facilities equipped with rattan-made round beds (big enough for two) draped in mosquito netting. The few bungalows on the property each offer private bathrooms and small patios, and the place as a whole boasts top-rated food, beautiful gardens and a prime location just minutes from the beach.

Photo by: Down From the Door
Photo by: Down From the Door

3. Kadir’s Tree Houses – Olympos, Turkey

Have you ever considered switching lives with a sometimes-drunk, extremely well-fed squirrel living in a forest? If so, here is your chance. In all seriousness, Kadir’s is a one of a kind budget accommodation found in a truly stunning location in Turkey’s Antalya region, just minutes from Olympos beach. The hostel offers the choice between bungalows (air conditioned and standard) and its most unique feature: traditionally-built tree house dorms. The property also has 2 bars, a seafood restaurant and a snack bar, as well as an extremely lively social scene. Breakfast and dinner are also included, proving that despite all of the recent positive publicity and rapid expansion to Kadir’s, travelers remain the number one priority.

Photo by: Kadir’s Tree Houses
Photo by: Kadir’s Tree Houses

2. Jumbo Stay – Stockholm, Sweden

For you long-range flyers perpetually wondering if you will EVER be able to sleep comfortably on a plane, wonder no more. The answer is still obviously “no,” but you can definitely pretend in Sweden’s Jumbo Stay. The hostel-hotel offers accommodation in a converted Boeing 747, ranging from dormitory style quads to a converted cockpit suite with panoramic views. It’s also conveniently located at the city’s Arlanda Airport, making it extremely handy for travelers who want a cool place to stay as they pass through.

Photo by: Jumbo Stay
Photo by: Jumbo Stay

1. Chateau Bahia – Quebec, Canada

If you’ve been meaning to satisfy your childhood dream of living in a fairy tale castle but just can’t seem to remember where you put that spare 2 billion dollars, your troubles are behind you. This wooden castle, which took 18 years to construct, offers both dorm-style and private rooms, and comes complete with a banquet room, 4 towers and 7 turrets. Your stay includes free breakfast and—for an added fee—a nightly candlelit dinner in the banquet hall, as well as a slew of activities both in the castle and in the surrounding forests of the Gaspé Peninsula. For those who consider themselves handy and have at least 2 weeks to spare, the hostel also offers free stays for anyone willing to help with additional construction.

Photo by: Chateau Bahia
Photo by: Chateau Bahia

 

The 15 Best New Hotels on the Planet

Travel + Leisure searched thousands of hotels all over the world in order to find the best game changer hotels that are new for 2015. The hotels were then tested out by staying a night in each and with a combination of elegance, innovation, personality of the owners and more; Travel + Leisure named their top 43 new hotels on the planet. We have gone one step further and explored these hotels picking our 15 favorites! From Israel to London to Botswana, here are our top 15 picks for the best new hotels on the planet:

15. Pikaia Lodge, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Boasted as the most luxurious and sustainable eco-lodge in the Galapagos; the Pikaia Lodge is designed for the environmentally conscious traveler who is looking for adventure in this remote area. Forget being stuck on a yacht, this lodge is land-based and offers land and water based activities through the day in small groups; allowing visitors get as close to nature as possible. With an infinity pool, spacious rooms, amazing restaurants and a spa, guests won’t have to sacrifice any amenities here. Did we mention that the lodge is perched on a small plateau on top of two extinct volcanic craters and offers some of the most spectacular viewpoints in all of the Galapagos?

Photo by: Pikaia Lodge
Photo by: Pikaia Lodge

14. Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge was actually re-built from an existing lodge and offers one of the most architecturally stunning safari camps. It blends seamlessly into its surroundings, the forest canopy of wild palms and fig trees with an abundance of wildlife nearby. 12 Cocoon like suites complete with wood burning fireplaces, private plunge pools and solar-power air conditioning hover on stilts above the floodplain reserve. World-class dining, breathtaking furnishings and an open-air dining room that is absolutely breathtaking set the mood for the ultimate safari adventure.

Photo by: Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge
Photo by: Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge

13. Viña Vik, Millahue, Chile

It looks more like a spaceship that touched down in the lush hills of Chilean wine country than a winery complete with a retreat recently added on the hillside above it. Viña Vik is home to only 22 rooms, each one designed by a different artist, adding to the allure of the place. Activities here are endless from taking a private guided tour through the winery, taking a dip in the stone infinity pool or eating the delicious food at the Pavilion Café.

Photo by: Viña Vik Hotel
Photo by: Viña Vik Hotel

12. The Norman, Tel Aviv, Israel

This boutique hotel blends 1920’s elegance with luxury services and facilities including a rooftop pool, wellness center and first-class dining. The Norman spans across two historic buildings that have been restored to their unique architectural heritage and furnished with a combination of classic and modern furnishings and fixtures. With 30 individually designed guestrooms and 20 one-of-a-kind suites the choice is endless as to where you can lay your head down at night.

Photo by: The Norman
Photo by: The Norman

11. Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard, London

This hotel isn’t just attracting tourists but locals themselves as they come to gawk at the Shangri-La Hotel located on floors 34-52 of the tallest building in Western Europe. Floor to ceiling windows in your room give you a breathtaking view of the vibrant city of London and the River Thames. The infinity pool, the incredible suites, the intimate bars and the amazing dining options are just a slice of the many luxuries offered here.

Photo by: Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London
Photo by: Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London

10. Four Seasons Resort Orlando, FL

It is Disney’s first five-star resort and it manages to incorporate enough trademark Disney traditions such as character breakfasts without sacrificing any of the luxury one would expect from a five-star resort. With a total of 443 rooms, there are options for both families and grownups including huge balconies, pullout sofas and oversized closets; all done in neutral colors to please anyone. Luxury amenities include the 13,000 square foot spa, the championship golf course and the adults-only pool. Count on dining on the roof top restaurant which features incredible views of the nightly fireworks.

Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Orlando

9. Adler Mountain Lodge, Dolomites, Italy

Located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Adler Mountain Lodge is truly a wood-built hideaway at the heart of nature. This lodge promises breathtaking views across the mountain meadows and soaring peaks, as well as an innovative guest experience and superior holiday experience. From the heated outdoor pool to the alpine spa to the sauna with incredible views, this lodge is like no other and creates the perfect base for exploring nature.

Photo by: Carlos Muela
Photo by: ADLER Mountain Lodge

8. Belle Mont Farm, St. Kitts

The passion for sustainable living is at the forefront of Belle Mont Farm hotel, along with making sure luxury amenities are still available to guests. Accommodations have been designed to fit in with nature and feature spectacular views of the ocean and forest. The guesthouses are loaded with amenities including rainwater showers, film-stocked iPad, projector screens and fresh fruit crates that get delivered daily. The personalized attention from the owners and the farm-to-table approach is what really wins guests over here.

Photo by: Belle Mont Farm
Photo by: Belle Mont Farm

7. Maalifushi by Como, Maldives

It’s not over the top luxury that got this hotel on our list, as the Maldives are packed full of that. It’s actually the family-friendly vibe that caught our attention. Maalifushi by COMO offers every choice of accommodation from two-bedroom suites to private pools to direct beach access to private butlers; giving families a wide range of options. Amenities such as a kid-friendly lagoon, kid’s club with outdoor cinema and babysitting services complete the experience. Don’t forget about the spa suites over the water, surfing lessons on nearby legendary breaks and amazing dining options for the grownups.

Photo by: Maalifushi by Como
Photo by: Maalifushi by Como

6. Raffles, Istanbul

This 21-storey hotel houses 181 guest rooms that are elegantly designed with Turkish influences and feature fine details you won’t find elsewhere. Floor to ceiling windows fill the rooms with light, private terraces, spa-like bathrooms and walk-in closets are just a few examples of these. The hotel is decked out with over 200 pieces of contemporary art that create a refined, modern sense of style. Whether you are enjoying the 33,000 square foot spa, dining in one of the seven on-site restaurants or sipping on Turkish coffee in the lounge, this hotel proves to be unforgettable.

Photo by: Raffles Istanbul
Photo by: Raffles Istanbul

5. Hotel Sahrai, Fez, Morocco

Gone is the notion that one must hole up in a budget hotel when visiting the medieval city of Fez with the introduction of this hotel. Loaded with terraces, outdoor bars, dining areas and an infinity pool; Hotel Sahrai embraces the notion of open space and natural light. The 50 guest rooms feature glass walls, soothing colors, exclusive furnishings and elegant details. Delicious food in an elegant setting tops off this hot new hotel of 2015.

Photo by: Hotel Sahrai
Photo by: Hotel Sahrai

4. Vines Resort & Spa, Mendoza, Argentina

Vines Resort is set amongst 1,500 acres of private vineyards and offers 22 private villas ranging from one to two bedrooms units. The huge windows allow for visitors to watch the incredible sunrises and sunsets that take place in the Uco Valley. Outdoor hot tubs, luxury linens, gas fireplaces, rooftop terraces and spa-inspired bathrooms complete the villas. Guests here can choose to dine inside, outside or in front of the open kitchen where they can watch skilled chefs cook with locally sourced ingredients to create five star dishes. Paired with award-winning boutique wines; this is one experience you won’t forget.

Photo by:The Vines Resort & Spa
Photo by:The Vines Resort & Spa

3. 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin is certainly one of the most unique hotels on this list as designers have created a hotel that blends nature with culture in one of the most interesting designs we have seen. Think 10-speed bikes dangling from the hallway ceilings and hammocks lining the third floor lobby. The location cannot be beat and if you feel like watching the apes play in the city zoo all day, why not book a room overlooking it or head to the rooftop bar. Rooms are playful with their polished concrete floors, black-tiled showers and colorful fabrics throughout and this will truly be one unique hotel stay.

Photo by: 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin
Photo by: 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

2. Namiri Plains, Tanzania

The eastern edge of the Serengeti has been off-limits to visitors for over 20 years, as its status as a wildlife refuge took precedence. The game-rich region is full of big cats including the ever elusive cheetah. Namiri Plains was created to cater to the wildlife enthusiast that was seeking a deeper experience, secluded surroundings and excellent wildlife experiences. This camp was created to minimize the impact on the environment and comprises of only eight tents that are perched in the shade of the giant acadias. Daily game drives, sunset picnics and the annual migration of the wildebeest and zebra make this an unforgettable vacation destination.

Photo by: Namiri Plains
Photo by: Namiri Plains

1. The Brando, Tetiaroa, French Polynesia

The Brando is made up of 35 ultra-private villas, each constructed with sustainable local wood and cooled by seawater-powered air conditioning. They face their own secluded private beach complete with visits from sea turtles and exotic birds. If you are looking to escape reality for a week, this is the hottest new hotel to visit this year. Two restaurants, a luxurious spa and wellness center, an organic garden, lily pad pond and two bars make up the rest of the property. Don’t forget about the tennis court, infinity pool and cultural center. Guests can expect to snorkel or dive with the tropical fish, take a sail into the lagoon, kayak above coral gardens, paddle board out to a nearby island or just relax on the breathtaking white sand beaches.

Photo by: The Brando
Photo by: The Brando

The 24 Newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey and the Blue and John Crow Mountains in Jamaica are just two of the 24 newly inscribed World Heritage sites approved by the 39th UNESCO committee in Bonn, Germany recently.  From ancient, archaeological sites to complex industrial systems and cultural landscapes, the 2015 list provides no shortage of exciting and intriguing travel ideas for the year, sure to peak even the most veteran travelers’ interests.

1. Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System – Mexico

Constructed in the 16th century and located on the Central Mexican Plateau, this aqueduct was built with support from local indigenous communities.  Along with tanks, bridges and a water catchment area, this heritage canal system has the “highest single-level arcade ever built in an aqueduct”.

Photo by: UNESCO/Espacio de la Imagen/Edgar Valtiago
Photo by: UNESCO/Espacio de la Imagen/Edgar Valtiago

2. Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale – Italy

The nine structures included in this Arab-Norman Palermo are comprised of two palaces, three churches, a cathedral, a bridge, the Cefalù cathedral and the Monreale cathedral.  Located on the northern coast of Sicily, this heritage site, dating from the 12th century, depicts the relationships between the Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultures that eventually led to new spatial, structural and decorative concepts.

Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale

3. Baekje Historic Areas – Republic of Korea

The Busosanseong Fortress and the royal palace at Wanggung-ri are among the eight archaeological sites that make up the Baekje Historic Areas.  Found in the mid-west region of the Republic of Korea, these sites, dating from 475 to 660 CE, are an accurate representation of the Baekje Kingdom, a time when the ancient kingdoms in Korea, China and Japan were sharing and exchanging thoughts and ideas on contemporary issues such as artistry, religion and technology.

Gongsanseong fortress Korea

4. Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) – Jordan

This heritage site, located on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, is believed to be the spot where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptist.  With multiple church and monastery remains, this archaeological site is a place of Christian pilgrimage and a testament to the Roman and Byzantine religious influence in the area.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan

5. Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars – France

Already one of the most popular wine regions in the world, the Champagne Hillsides were given World Heritage designation due to its historical importance in the production of sparkling wines.  Since the early 17th century, these historic vineyards have understood the value of illustrating the process of champagne production and have become a household name in the wine and tourism industry.

Champagne hillsides france

6. Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement – Denmark

This town, a planned settlement of the Moravian Church, was intended to represent the Protestant urban ideal and so was constructed in its entirety around a central Church square.  Founded in 1773 and still used today by a community of the Moravian Church, this town is complete with simple and homogenous architecture, such as its yellow brick buildings with red tile roofs.

Christiansfeld denmark

7. Climats, terroirs of Burgundy – France

These delimited vineyard parcels, found south of Dijon, are an excellent representation of the ancient cultivation and production methods in place since the High Middle Ages.  Due to human cultivation and natural conditions, these parcels, located on the slopes of the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune, are now identified by the wine they produced.

Château du Clos de Vougeot Burgundy France

8. Cultural Landscape of Maymand – Iran (Islamic Republic of)

This heritage site of Maymand is a self-contained area located in the southern part of Iran’s central mountains.  UNESCO designated this area a heritage site because of the semi-nomadic pastoralists who live with their animals on mountain pastures, and relocate depending on the seasons.  The nomads live low in the valley during the winter months in unique cave dwellings, and live in temporary settlements higher up on the mountain during the spring and autumn months.

Photo by: Ngjyra
Photo by: Ngjyra

9. Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape – Turkey

Situated in the aptly-named Fertile Crescent, this city and its surrounding landscape has been given an World Heritage designation due to it being an important center throughout different time periods, from the Hellenistic period, to the Ottoman times and into the present.  The fortified city of Diyarbakir, along with the Hevsel Gardens, is comprised of an inner castle,  a 5.8 kilometer long wall, towers, gates, 63 inscriptions all from different periods and is located on the Upper Tigres River Basin.

Diyarbakir Fortress Turkey

10. Ephesus – Turkey

This World Heritage Site has long since drawn Pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean.  The ancient city of Ephesus, featuring successive Hellenistic and Roman settlements, is comprised of many excavated monuments and historical sites, and is a great example of a Roman port city.

Ephesus Turkey

11. Fray Bentos Cultural-Industrial Landscape – Uruguay

West of the town of Fray Bentos and situated on the Uruguay River, this site was built in order to process the meat that was produced on the nearby prairies.  This was given World Heritage status due to its excellent illustration on the process of meat production; its crucial location, industrial and residential buildings and social institutions ensure that this site of meat production was known on a global scale.

Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

12. Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape – Mongolia

Having long been a site of ancient shamanic and Buddhist practices, the Burkhan Khaldun, situated in the central part of the Khentii mountain chain in the north-east part of the country, has been a place of worship of the sacred mountains, rivers and ovoo-s (shamanic rock cairns) that make up the landscape.  Believed to be the place of Genghis Khan’s birth and burial, this site is crucial to the unification of the Mongol people and to the mountain worship prevalent in their culture.

mountain mongolia

13. Necropolis of Beth She’arim: A Landmark of Jewish Renewal – Israel

The series of catacombs that make up this heritage site are an important collection of Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew artworks and inscriptions.  Southeast of the city of Haifa, Beth She’arim was the primary Jewish burial place outside of Jerusalem and is an important testimony to ancient Judaism and to the Jewish renewal after 135 CE.

Beth She’arim Israel

14. Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site – Norway

Using the natural mountainous landscape to its advantage, the Norsk-Hydro Company manufactured artificial fertilizer from nitrogen in the air and became an example of a new global industry in the early 20th century. The hydroelectric power plants and transport systems and towns included at the Rjukan-Notodden site show how this company used its industry, in combination with nature, to meet the Western world’s increasing demand for agricultural production.

Rjukan-Notodden Norway

15. Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia

Petroglyphs and inscriptions on the rock face of this heritage site offer a glimpse into the passages of the ancient Arab populations across the Great Narfoud Desert.  These preserved depictions of human and animal figures show 10,000 years of history found in this great desert landscape in Saudi Arabia.

Photo by: saudi-archaeology
Photo by: saudi-archaeology

16. San Antonio Missions – United States of America

A great source of pride for Texans now and past are the five frontier mission complexes that make up this newly designated World Heritage site located in southern Texas.  Built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century, the San Antonio Missions are symbols of Spain’s colonization of the region and are the site of the historic 1836 Battle of the Alamo.

San Antonio Missions Conception

17. Singapore Botanical Gardens – Singapore

Used for both conservation and education, the Singapore Botanical Gardens, built in 1859, include many historical features that illustrate the development of the garden and its importance as a site for science and research.

Singapore Botanical Gardens

18. Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining – Japan

Eleven properties make up this heritage site, situated in the southwest of Japan.  This site depicts the time in Japanese history when the country actively sought technology from both Europe and America and is considered the first successful transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western nation.

Nirayama Reverbatory Furnaces Japan

19. Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus – Germany

Built on a narrow island in the Elbe River from 1885 to 1927 and partially rebuilt from 1949 to 1967, these two urban areas, centrally located in the port city of Hamburg, are examples of the effects of rapid international trade in the 19th and 20th centuries.  These two areas together are one of the largest historic ensembles of port warehouses in the world.

Speicherstadt Germany

20. Susa – Iran (Islamic Republic of)

These architectural monuments, depicting the nearly extinct Elamite, Persian and Parthian cultural traditions, are comprised of administrative, residential and palatial structures excavated in the south-west of Iran.  These archaeological sites illustrate settlements found in the area from the late 5th millennium BCE to the 13th century CE, successively.

Susa Iran

21. The Forth Bridge – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The largest multi-span cantilever bridge, located across the estuary of the Forth River in Scotland, has earned World Heritage designation from UNESCO due to its innovative use of bridge design and construction.

The Forth Bridge UK

22. The Par Force Hunting Landscape in North Zealand – Denmark

The two hunting forests of Store Dyrehave and Gribskov, along with the hunting park of Jaegersborg Hegn/Jaegersborg Dyrehave, where Danish kings hunted with hounds until the end of the 16th century, have reached World Heritage status due to its demonstration of Baroque landscaping principles.

Photo by: .bastian (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: .bastian (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

23. Tusi Sites- China

From the Yuan and Ming periods of Chinese civilization, the Tusi Sites depict the tribal domains whose chiefs were elected based on the Tusi system.  This system, in place from the 13th to the 20th century, rose in prominence due to its unification of national administration and its allowance of customs and culture from ethnic minorities.

Photo by: photo.navi
Photo by: photo.navi

24. Blue and John Crow Mountains – Jamaica

Jamaica’s first World Heritage designation is the unique and historically important mountainous region situated in the south-east of Jamaica.  Not only does this site contain many of the endemic plant species present in the Caribbean Islands, but it also provided refuge for both the indigenous Tainos and escaped African slaves known as Maroons.  Due to the isolated nature of these mountains, the refugees managed to resist the European colonial system, and in doing so, developed spiritual connections with the mountains that are still felt today.

Blue Mountains Jamaica

8 Things to Know Before Visiting the Middle East

For many people who live outside the region, the Middle East can seem like a somewhat confusing and chaotic place. Nonetheless, many are compelled to visit for any number of reasons, ranging from business to family ties and heritage to religion. Some people just want to visit the area; others still go to teach or even relocate to the region after a single visit proves too little time in this amazing part of the world. While many feel daunted by the thought of a visit to the Middle East—by stories of political turmoil, religious strife, human rights grievances, harsh climates, and sheer cultural difference—the many countries of the Middle East are wonderful destinations, full of warm and welcoming people, many of them happy to showcase their homelands to those who are willing to visit and learn. Learning, of course, can start before you land at the airport and anyone who plans to visit the Middle East—whether now or in the future—can benefit from knowing a few things before they take-off for the great unknown. And even if you have no plans to visit the Middle East, take heed—because you never know where your travels will take you.

Each Country is Unique

Anybody who is familiar with the Middle East probably knows that the first thing anyone needs to know is that the region is composed of a multitude of countries, each with their own unique history and culture, and often, with their own religious practices and languages as well. While it’s easy for outsiders to talk about the region as one big, monolithic whole where everyone shares in the same culture, language, religion and ethnicity, nothing could be further from the truth. Much like a visitor to Europe can’t research the customs of Norway and expect things to be exactly the same in France, so too should visitors to the Middle East do research on the customs and norms of the particular country they’re going to visit. While some things might not vary a lot from country to country, other things will be quite different depending on where in the Middle East you are! One of the best things you can do before booking your ticket is to actually stop thinking about the region as a whole or as we generally call it “the Middle East.”

middle east life

Dress Conservatively/Respectfully

To immediately contradict that, there are some generalizations that you can make about areas of the Middle East. These “rules of thumb” should serve you well in your travels, but always keep in mind that each country is unique and should never be treated as though it is “exactly the same” as one of its neighbors. One thing you can usually assume in Middle Eastern countries, however, is that you’re going to need to show respect to the local culture. One of the best ways to do this is to dress conservatively. This doesn’t necessarily mean donning a hijab or abaya or any other specific type of clothing for men or women, but it does mean covering up. Both men and women should engage in conservative dress. Low-riding jeans that slide down when you bend over are a huge social faux pas and sleeveless tops are considered rude for both sexes. Shorts (especially short-shorts, ladies) are generally frowned upon, as are crop tops. It might be hot, but most of these clothing items violate social expectations for dress. Although people in the Middle East are often too polite to say anything about how you choose to dress, “letting it all hang out” is actually incredibly rude and shows disrespect and insensitivity toward the cultures of these countries.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

Most Women Aren’t Forced to Cover Up

Speaking of clothing and cultural norms, you might be asking about veiling. Above, it was indicated that you might not need to don a headscarf in most places, and, in some areas, putting one on might even be considered a little bit disrespectful. In other countries, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, women will need to wear a headscarf in order to be respectful. As they say, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and nothing could be more true in this case; following local customs is a sign of awareness and respect for the culture. That doesn’t mean that you should assume that a headscarf or any other form of veiling has been forced on a woman; in most Middle Eastern countries, the decision to wear a hijab or another covering is entirely up to a woman and insinuating otherwise is insulting to her! The decision to wear a headscarf or not, in most places, is part of a woman’s identity, much the way wardrobes in the West are used to showcase individual identities. The exceptions to the rule are Iran and northern Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan under the Taliban. Even in Saudi Arabia, no one is exactly forcing women to wear head-coverings, although it is frowned upon to do otherwise.

muslin women

Don’t Refuse Coffee

Another custom that might seem strange to visitors is that it is considered incredibly rude, almost forbidden, to refuse an offer of coffee at a store. While you’re out and about, you might decide to do some shopping. If you’re offered a coffee while you’re in a shop, don’t refuse, especially if you plan to make a purchase or if you’re already at the register putting the transaction through. The offer is simple hospitality throughout much of the Middle East and rarely refused.

Turkish Coffee

Bye Bye Bacon/Alcohol

If you happen to eat out—and you’re likely to visit at least one restaurant on your trip—don’t be surprised if you can’t find any pork dishes on the menu. The tenants of Islam forbid the preparation and eating of pork, so it most definitely won’t be found on the menus of any eateries serving up traditional dishes and, because much of the Middle East is Muslim, most chain restaurants won’t serve it either—even if their counterparts in other countries do. This has to do with strictures about the preparation of food, particularly meat; food must be halal and if there is pork being prepared in the same area, the food would be considered tainted. Another notable absence might be a lack of alcohol; Islam similarly has strictures against the ingestion of alcohol by followers of the faith. While there are certain local spirits or similar beverages that may be served, you shouldn’t expect your Muslim hosts, family, friends or business partners to hit the bar or to have a glass of wine with dinner. The increasing number of foreign businesspersons and international visitors has led to more alcohol being readily available, but it’s still not an embedded part of cuisine and culture like it is in, say, France. You might be invited to partake in hookah, however, which is a Middle Eastern custom in which flavored tobacco, called shishah, is smoked. Nonetheless, don’t assume that your hosts enjoy shishah; it is very much up to individual preference and the customs of the area you’re in.

Kebabs

Haggling is Usually Expected

Customs around money and the exchange of money can also be baffling to someone visiting the Middle East for the very first time. Although customs vary from place to place, haggling is very much the norm in many Middle Eastern stores. While Westerners expect to see set prices when they walk into a store, and to pay those prices when they cash out, most Middle Easterners expect to do a bit of bartering. For that reason, prices in shops may be set high on the assumption that the customer won’t pay that price, but will haggle a bit with the shopkeeper to get a better deal. This is more common in marketplaces and bazaars where individual proprietors can set their prices as they see fit than it is in chain shops, especially those that have parent companies in the West. Nonetheless, you should always be prepared to see if you can get a better deal—especially on things like cab fares—and be prepared to take a bit of extra time to do business. The culture isn’t focused on in-and-out shopping like the West is; in fact, “doing business” is often seen as a way to build social relations and thus it should take time.

Rostislav Glinsky / Shutterstock.com
Rostislav Glinsky / Shutterstock.com

Baksheesh is Everywhere

Baksheesh is another Middle Eastern custom around money that, at first glance, might seem familiar to an outsider. Upon closer examination, however, you’ll quickly find that it can seem a little bit strange. Baksheesh is what is known as “tips” in the English-speaking world. The difference is that anyone can ask for a tip for just about any service, whether it’s a necessary service or not. And many people are not shy about asking for a tip. In most Middle Eastern countries, the customer is allowed to decide whether or not they want to tip, depending on how satisfied they were with the service, but it is almost expected that workers in the hospitality industry, including hotel maids, bellhops, valets and restaurant wait staff, should be tipped. This is because these jobs are low-paying and it’s assumed that baksheesh will make up a large portion of the worker’s income. For other “services,” the cultural push to tip is less pressing—you don’t need to tip everyone, even if they ask for a tip, and you especially don’t need to tip if you didn’t like the service!

middle east currency

Everyone is Unique –Treat Them That Way

Not liking a service or being asked for a tip, however, doesn’t give you free reign to be rude to people and you shouldn’t condone or partake in rude behavior others might engage in, even if it seems to be “culturally acceptable,” such as young men being insolent toward women in Egypt. Leaving those incidents—which aren’t approved or accepted by everyone—aside, Middle Easterners are some of the warmest and most welcoming people on the planet and visitors need to reciprocate that hospitality, while also respecting that every country is different and, beyond that, every person they encounter is a different person. In Lebanon, you’re likely to meet a mix of people from different backgrounds, each of them with a different story. Not every person in a Middle Eastern country is Arab, and not everyone is Muslim—assuming this is like saying that everyone in the United States is white and Christian. It’s simply not true. You will meet Muslims and Arabs, but you will also meet Jews and Christians, Kurds and so many, many others. Even the Muslims you meet will be different in every country, every city and every place you visit. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that everyone in the Middle East is exactly the same! Experienced travelers know that some people—perhaps a small minority—will fit into the stereotypes they have of a particular population, but the vast majority of people will likely defy all your expectations—and often in the most pleasant of ways. That’s one of the most compelling reasons to travel anywhere in the world, and meeting new people and sharing in what they have to teach you is one of the best reasons you can have for traveling to a Middle Eastern country.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

Underrated Escapes: The 8 Most Beautiful Places in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean spans a huge swath of the world and is so crammed with beautiful hotspots that it can be overwhelming to plan a trip.  Let’s step aside for a moment from the traditional destinations and focus on the overlooked and underrated escapes that will help you discover and explore the beauty of the Mediterranean while avoiding the main tourist traps.  Beaches, delicious food, exhilarating adventures, and relaxing getaways await, and you will come home with memories of a unique experience that will last a lifetime.

8. Tarifa, Spain

If you are an outdoor enthusiast with a passion for water sports, head to Tarifa, Spain. Located on the southern tip of Spain, a mere 13 kilometers away from northern Africa, this fantastic place can attribute its reputation as a Mecca for windsurfing and kitesurfing to the constantly blowing winds. Laid back and relaxed, this town will feel like home. New to windsurfing and kitesurfing? Grab a lesson at Tantrum Kitesurf, Tarifa Air Force, or Rebels Tarifa Kitesurfing, then show off your new moves at the beautiful Playa de Bolonia. Refuel and recover by enjoying barbecue at Asador El Caseron or grab some tapas at La Jara La Cana Perfecta or La Burla.  Diving enthusiasts can explore the crystal clear water and underwater attractions with Yellow Submarine or new divers can become certified while checking out some of the best diving in the Mediterranean. Sick of the waves?  Head just outside Tarifa to the Archaeological Ensemble of Baelo Claudia to visit some remarkable ruins.

Kitesurfing Tarifa, Spain

7. Cadiz, Spain

One of the oldest cities in Western Europe, the city of Cadiz is a beautiful gem in the Mediterranean. Founded by Phoenician sailors about 3000 years ago, the rich history of the city is present in every twist and turn of the old city. Check out the stone walls and forts around the old town, visit the Cathedral, and climb the North Tower to take in views of the entire city. Try to plan your trip to catch Carnaval in Cadiz, which usually happens in February, for some incredible costumes, singing, dancing, and food. Rent a bike and pedal your way around town, stroll around Park Genoves, grab a surf lesson, or simply enjoy a day at the beach at Playa Victoria. Make the most of the beach side destination by enjoying the fresh seafood. If you are budget conscious, head to Calle Zorilla or Calle de la Palma for streets that feature plenty of affordable dining options, or go all out at Restaurante El Faro.

Cadiz, Spain

6. Aeolian Islands, Italy

The Aeolian Islands are a group of volcanic islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, found between 25 and 50 kilometers north of Sicily.  Although these islands have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity and can be very busy during July and August, visiting during the rest of the year will give you a chance to soak up the incredible beauty while avoiding the crowds. Rent a kayak and explore the coastlines, take a boat tour, go scuba diving – the options are endless. Whatever you choose, you will be surrounded by mountainous green islands with jaw dropping coastlines.  Vulcano is the most popular island and gives you the chance to climb a volcano, have a mud bath, and swim in sea water full of volcanic bubbles.  Top off your visit to Vulcano with seafood at Maurizio. The island of Lipari is relatively quiet, affordable, and features a pumice quarry, while Stromboli has an active volcano, beautiful black sand beaches, and gives you the chance of a lifetime to climb the volcano at sunset, and then run down the volcanic ash slopes.

Aeolian Islands, Italy

5. Tetouan, Morocco

Filled with traditional white buildings and home to an old town on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the stunning coastal town of Tetouan is a remarkable destination in the Mediterranean.  Southeast of Tangier, this smaller port town is off the beaten path, and off the radar of many travelers. Head to the Medina to learn about the multicultural history of Northern Morocco – it is divided into the Andalusian, the Jewish, and the Berber sections (consider hiring a guide to get the most out of your experience). Stroll around Mohammed V Avenue, a pedestrian only road found in the center of the town which is packed with cafes, boutiques, shops, and street vendors. Grab a coffee and a quiet spot and watch the hustle and bustle and the locals, and then stroll further down the street to visit the King’s Palace.  Explore the vibrant culinary scene at Blanco Riad, Riad Saada, Restaurant Restinga, Snack Yousfi, and then load up on sweets with the locals at Dallas.

Tetouan, Morocco

4. Dubrovnik, Croatia

The walled city of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Sea is found in the far south of Croatia. Although a popular destination within Europe, the beautiful city of Dubrovnik isn’t overwhelmed with tourists. Walk atop the ancient city walls for some epic views, walk around the old town, rent a kayak and explore the coastline, sample local wines on the Dubrovnik Wine Tour, take a boat tour, rent a bike, dive the crystal clear waters with Blue Planet Diving Center, or go sailing with Dubrovnik Sailing. Relax after your days of exploring at Dionysus Wine Bar, grab some tapas at Patarul, seafood at Barba, and dessert at Gossip or Dulce Vita. Try to time your visit to catch the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, featuring theater, opera, and dance events in open air venues across the city. Need to get out of town? Explore the nearby Mljet, Lokrum, Lopud, or Korcula Islands for a peaceful getaway and even more breathtaking sights.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

3. Corsica, France

The island of Corsica, France, has managed to avoid over-development compared to many other islands in the Mediterranean. Most tourists head to Corsica in August, so skip the busy season for a more relaxed adventure. With some of the best beaches in Europe and plenty of walking and hiking trails, this island is worth a visit!  If you have the time, consider hiking the GR 20, an approximately 17 day hike. Short on time? Visit the Calanche Cliffs – red cliffs that tower over the blue waters of the Mediterranean, Gorges de la Restonica, Vallee du Fango, Aiguilles de Bavella, and the Nature Reserve of Scandola for some outdoorsy hikes and walks. Best beaches are Roccapina Beach, Plage de Ghjunchitu, Plage du Petit Sperone, Plage d’Arone, Plage du Lotu and Tamaricciu Beach (as you can probably tell, there are plenty of beautiful options). On the island, you can pursue a variety of activities, including diving, skydiving, boat tours, biking, ATVing, and much more. Relax and make some new friends at B’52 or Café de la Tour.

Calvi Corsica, France

2. Haifa, Israel

Haifa, the third largest city in Israel, is often overlooked as a Mediterranean destination, but its coastal location, proximity to Mount Carmel, loads of activities and plenty of delicious eats should put it at the top of your travel wish list. You absolutely must visit Baha’i Gardens and Golden Dome to see one of the most beautiful gardens in the world (up kept almost entirely by volunteers) while enjoying breathtaking views of Haifa Bay. Get the most out of the experience by booking a free tour in advance. Check out the Mada Tech, the Israel National Museum of Science for a day of hands on learning suitable for the whole family. Visit nearby Mount Carmel National Park for hiking and mountain biking. Take advantage of the delicious street food on Yafo Street and Wadi Nisnas – try the shawarma, falafel, baklava, and knafe! And of course – the beach! Head to Dado Beach to soak up the sun on this clean and picturesque beach.

Baha'i Gardens Haifa, Israel

1. Evia, Greece

The island of Evia, pronounced ‘effia’ is also known as Evvia or Euboia. Perhaps this case of multiple identities is what has kept it from the majority of the world – although being a popular Grecian getaway, this island has for the most part, stayed out of the global spotlight. Greece’s second largest island is easily accessible and full of hot springs, archaeological wonders, and mouth watering food. Visit St. John the Russian, Karababa Castle, and Dragon House at Ochi Mountain for a taste of history, then hop in the Healing Thermal Springs of Edipsos to rest and rejuvenate. Enjoy beautiful beach settings at Kalamos, Chiliadou, and Pefki Beaches to soak up the sun, and check out the Lihadonisia Diving Center in Edipsos for some spectacular Mediterranean diving. With hundreds of villages on this beautiful island, it can be hard to narrow down your options, so rent a car in Eretria, then take your time, relax, and enjoy the adventure as you explore this piece of Greek paradise.

Evia, Greece

The 7 Safest Places to Travel in the Middle East

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

7. The Nile, Egypt

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

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

6. Northern Israel

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

Nazareth

5. Cyprus

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

Cyprus

4. Qatar

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

Qatar at night

3. Oman

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

Muscat, Oman

2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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

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

1. Jordan

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

Petra Jordan

Top 10 Travel Destinations on the Rise for 2014!

The travellers have spoken. Whether you seek relaxation, adventure, enlightenment, history, food, or just a chance of pace, there’s a place for everyone among these destinations on the rise. According to TripAdvisor, these are the 10 places you need to visit in 2014:

10. Fortaleza, Brazil

Jericoacoara Beach is an isolated coastal utopia, but it’s only one of dozens of five-star beaches. The endless sand is perfect for the tranquility of sunbathing or the thrill-seeking of dune buggy rides. Sports enthusiasts will understand the national zeal for soccer when they catch a game at the Arena Castelao. And when the sun sets, the sensuous hum of Brazilian nightlife pulsates, whether your taste is for a bumping dance club or a hole-in-the-wall beer pub.

Fortaleza, Brazil

9. Corralejo, Spain

Avoid the hubbub of Madrid and venture instead to this restorative holiday island. Pristine beaches, romantic catamaran cruises, and the rush of kite-surfing complement the sparkling water. If by some miracle you tire of the beach, go with EEE Bikers to see the volcano from a mountain bike, or take off your shoes to amble through the Corralejo dunes.

Corralejo, Spain

8. Hanoi, Vietnam

You’ll find it hard to believe how affordable an excursion to the Vietnamese capital is. Experience the charm of a walk through the Old Quarter. Learn from an array of diverse museums: fine arts, ethnology, women’s history. Water-gaze at the Lake of the Restored Sword, take a moment to reflect in Hang Boc temple, or meander back through time at Ho Chi Minh’s residence.

Hanoi, Vietnam

7. Sapporo, Japan

Sapporo has much to offer in its prestigious Asian cuisine, unique parks, and young energy. First, see everything at once from the Mt. Okura observatory. Then hit the Olympic-famous slopes of the Sapporo International Ski Place. Stroll though the Sapporo Artpark, where avant-garde aesthetics are blended into the purity of nature, or opt for the flowery fields of Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park. Great for families and foodies alike.

Sapporo, Japan

6. Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes

The Great Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef is one of the most iconic diving locales ever. Post-dive, spend the latter parts of your day from a golf cart, exploring the jungle ruins of the Marco Gonzalez Maya site, perusing the largest collection of Belizean art at The Gallery of San Pedro, Ltd., and getting high on the Toucan Jumper Bungee Trampoline while the sun sets behind the palm trees.

Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes

5. Cusco, Peru

No place in the world boasts a more impressive set of ancient Incan ruins than Macchu Piccu, and with its peak in the clouds, the mountain is unparalleled in grandeur. Scenic railroads like the environmentally-geared Vistadome or PeruRail’s more traditional Hiram Bingham train are the perfect way to take in the countryside. Then spend an evening in Cusco’s heart, the Plaza de Arms – shopping, restaurants, and people-watching abound.

Cusco, Peru

4. Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem holds appeal for Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, as well as anyone with a proclivity for the historic. Put a prayer in the Wailing Wall, take in the view from the Mount of Olives, and wander through the Garden of Gethsemane. Biblical history isn’t all Jerusalem holds though: the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is the world’s leading Holocaust museum, and the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens provide a lush contract to an otherwise beige city.

Jerusalem, Israel

3. Kathmandu, Nepal

Many sites in Kathmandu are attractions for the spiritually inquisitive – between the crisp mountain air, the architectural intricacies of the temples, and the mystic Buddhist history, Kathmandu is a mecca for anyone seeking peace and Zen. The Himalayas don’t only offer enlightenment though – hiking, camping, and even paragliding are for folks of any spiritual walk.

Kathmandu, Nepal

2. La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica

Boasting the country’s most active volcano, beautiful waterfalls, and natural hot springs, La Fortuna de San Carlos is next to Eden. With lodging prices through the floor and the accessibility of exotic flora and fauna, this city isn’t to be missed. The best way to experience the canopy of the rainforest is by horseback tour –the sketchier your guide, the better. Sometimes the horses aren’t as tame as you’d think.

La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica

1. Havana, Cuba

Smoke the most famous cigars of all time. Feel the sensuality of the Rumba loosen your hips. Tour the gritty historicity of a legendary revolution and the literary haunts of Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene. Local music, adamant baseball, gourmet chocolate, legendary sport-fishing…with the shadow of the Castro family paled, Cuba looks more appealing, and the tropical climate sure doesn’t hurt the draw.

Kamira / Shutterstock.com
Kamira / Shutterstock.com