There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup on a chilly day, so as the seasons change in the northern hemisphere and the air starts to exhibit that nip we know means that winter is coming, we start to search for warmth anyway we can. For many, soup isn’t just a seasonal favorite but rather a go to meal any time of year, and each country/region/cuisine has their own local specialties. Chowders are notorious to the American East coast while in India you’ll find spice-filled delights like Mulligatawny and Rasam, so take a global tour this Fall without having to leave the comfort of your own home with these international soups that are guaranteed to warm and delight.
10. Bouillabaisse -France
If you’re looking for an impressive soup to serve to company or you’re crazy about seafood, this French soup is sure to satisfy. Bouillabaisse originates from the city of Marseille, France where fishermen would make this seafood stew using the left over fish they were unable to sell to markets or restaurants. The dish blends several types of local fish and shellfish such as mussels and crabs with fish stock and a selection of Provençal herbs and spices.
9. Caldo Verde -Portugal
This popular type of Portuguese soup combines potatoes, kale, olive oil and salt and will not only warm you but also fill you up on those cold Autumn evenings. Often, sausage or ham hock is added to the soup at the end of cooking to make it an even more filling meal. In Portugal, you’ll find this soup typically served during celebrations such as birthdays, weddings and festivals like the Festival of St. John of Porto.
8. Cullen Skink -Scotland
This thick Scottish soup is filled with smoked haddock, potatoes and onions along with milk or cream for a hearty satisfying soup that really ‘sticks to your ribs’. Cullen Skink originated in the town of Cullen in Moray Scotland but the dish is now a popular everyday dish throughout the northeast of the country. This soup is considered more assertive than an American fish chowder and heartier than a French bisque.
7. Fasolada -Greece
Fasolada is a traditional Greek bean soup that’s often called the “national food of the Greeks”. While recipes vary widely, the original version of ancient Greece blended dried white beans, olive oil and grains with vegetables like carrot, celery and onions and was served as an offering to the Greek God Apollo during the Pyanopsia festival in Athens.
6. Harira -Morocco
Harira is a popular tomato based soup from Morocco and Algeria where the dish is commonly eaten as a starter before a meal or as a light snack. The main components of Harira are tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, onions, rice, meat (usually lamb or beef) and flour for thickening. Herbs and spices are also added and vary depending on region but typically they include parsley, coriander, saffron, ginger, pepper, turmeric and cumin.
5. Mulligatawny -India
Mulligatawny may be an English spin on an Indian tradition but it’s still delicious none the less! The funny sounding name comes from the Tamil words mullaga and thanni which translate to ‘pepper-water’. Today’s version of this soup typically consists of chicken broth, curry powder, nutmeg and blended lentils and vegetables. The original Indian dish this soup was based on wasn’t actually a soup at all, but rather a sauce that was served over rice.
4. Tom Yum -Thailand
This traditional Thai hot and sour soup is a favorite not only in Thailand but also in Laos and throughout other neighboring countries. The soups distinct base is made from stock that’s simmered with fragrant herbs and spices like lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, fish sauce and fresh chilies. Vegetables and meats are added and very depending on region and recipe but commonly you’ll find chicken, beef, pork and shrimp.
Laksa is a spicy noddle soup popular in the Peranakan style of cuisine which is a blend of both Chinese and Malay cuisines. The popular curry Laksa combines a rich broth of curry spices and coconut milk with rice or laksa noodles, vegetables and meat such as chicken, fish, prawns or bean curd puff. This satisfying noodle soup is popular in Malaysia but variants are also found throughout Singapore, Indonesia and southern Thailand.
2. Solyanka -Russia
Russia is known for hearty food and this popular spicy-sour soup is no exception. While there are 3 basic types of Solyanka, all of them contain pickled cucumbers with brine, cabbage and mushrooms. Meat Solyanka adds beef, ham, sausage or chicken along with tomatoes, onions, olives, capers, allspice, parsley and dill, while mushroom Solyanka sees layers of mushrooms and cabbage alternated and topped with grated lemon zest, breadcrumbs and butter before the soup is baked.
1. Clam Chowder -USA
Clam Chowder is an east coast favorite and one of the most popular soups in America. The New England clam chowder is a milk or cream based type that is usually a little thicker than other regional varieties and is usually topped or thickened with oyster crackers, a regional specialty. Diced potato, bacon, onion and celery are added to the clams and simmered until tender. In the New England region, adding tomatoes to chowder is frowned upon and in 1939, a bill was introduced to Maine legislature making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal.
Some may call them gondolas, others may call them cable cars or aerial tramways but we call them trams. By tram, we aren’t talking about the light-rail or streetcars that run through most of Europe; we are talking about the cable-suspended cabins that seamlessly float through the air. All over the world these trams offer incredible sweeping views of oceans, mountains and cities. From trams that offer free public transportation to those with glass floors, here are 12 of the best tram rides in the world.
12. Roosevelt Island Tram – New York City, United States
It is one of America’s only aerial tramways used for urban mass transit and that fact alone makes this tram pretty incredible. It serves more than two million commuters and tourists a year connecting Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Each cabin can hold up to 110 people and the trip only takes three minutes. The draw for tourists seems to be the sweeping views of Manhattan and the East River it provides from 230 feet in the air. This Tram has been featured in many television shows and movies and continues to be one of the most loved trams in the world.
11. Gibraltar Cable Car – Gibraltar, Spain
Many people have never heard of Gibraltar mainly because it is a very small British Overseas Territory that is located on the south coast of Spain, often referred to as “The Rock.” One of the highlights here is a trip on the cable car. It has been around since 1966 and not summiting the top via cable car would be like going to the Grand Canyon and not looking over the rim. The ride to the top only takes six minutes, but visitors are provided with an audio guide that talks about the history of the area. Sweeping views over the strait and into Northern Africa accompany riders. At the top visitors will be privy to the view of two continents, three countries and the meeting point of two great bodies of water. There is only one hitch to being at the top of this rock and that is the thieving resident apes that are waiting for you. Make sure to leave all food below and hold onto your camera as these apes love to steal right from your hand.
10. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway – Cape Town, South Africa
It is one of three trams in the world where each circular cabin rotates a full 360 degrees during the ascent to Table Mountain. The five minute trip up provides spectacular views and has been enjoyed by over 20 million people. A quick fact about this cable car, it was actually one of Cape Town’s first tourist attractions and opened in 1929. On the ride up and at the summit visitors are granted 360-degree views of Cape Town, Table Bay, nearby mountains and the rest of Table Mountain National Park. Also at the top is where you will find three hiking trails, a guided walk, self-serve restaurant and souvenir shop. One of the more popular times to ride this tram is sunset as there seems to be no better place in Africa to watch the sun sink away than on top of Table Mountain. If you are feeling really adventurous, skip the cable car ride back down and rappel down the cliff face.
9. Sandia Peak Tramway – Albuquerque, United States
It is hailed as North America’s longest aerial tram and has the world’s third longest single span. That alone is enough for us to want to get to Albuquerque and ride it today. At 2.7 miles long the tram provides sweeping views of the steep rocky terrain. The trip starts off in the suburbs of northeast Albuquerque and spends 15 minutes taking visitors up to the high desert peaks of the Sandia Mountains. Riders should expect an elevation change of about 4,000 feet and a temperature drop of 30 degrees. It works on a double system where one tram ascends and the other descends, each being able to hold up to 50 people. When this tram was first constructed in 1966 the engineering company touted it as being one of the most difficult tramway construction projects because of the terrain. You can just imagine what those views look like from 3,000 feet in the air.
8. Telluride Gondola – Colorado, United States
This ultra laid back ski town offers an equally cool form of public transportation. It offers a 13 minute tram ride between Telluride and Mountain Village. What makes this tram even better, riders can ride it as many times as they want for free. Since it opened in 1996, this tram has always been free and motors along leisurely at 11 mph operating from 7 am-midnight. This tram offers incredible 360 degree views of the San Juan Mountains and locals refer to it as the “best commute in the country.” Everyone is welcome on this tram including your four legged furry friends as long as they are on a leash. Equipped with ski and snowboard racks in the winter, bike racks in the summer and blankets all year round. This tram has truly thought of everything to make your ride unforgettable.
7. Skyline Gondola – Queenstown, New Zealand
The views from this gondola, the steepest of its kind in all of the Southern Hemisphere, are epically amazing. This tram takes visitors 450 meters above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak. You can even take your bike up on it. But what awaits visitors at the top is what makes this tram one of the best. Besides the awesome viewing platforms and outdoor terraces, there is a plethora of activities that await visitors on this peak. For the adrenaline seekers, paragliding, bungee jumping and luge racing are all offered at the top. For those not quite daring enough, there are plenty of mountain biking trails, stargazing tours and scenic dining options as well. The 222- degree view of the Remarkable Range, the town center looking like a Lego city and the plethora of activities at the top make this one amazing tram ride.
6. Dubrovnik Cable Car -Dubrovnik, Croatia
Soar up above Dubrovnik’s orange-roofed walled Old Town on this amazing cable car that goes 1,329 feet up into the air. The original cable car that was opened in 1969 was actually bombed out during the 1991 Balkan conflicts, but has since been replaced and re-opened in 2010. It only takes four minutes to do the entire run, but it remains one of the best ways for visitors to take in the Dalmatian coast anytime of the day. It is possible to buy a one-way ticket up and that often gives visitors the best of both worlds, as the walk down is just as scenic and only takes a mere 30 minutes. We suggest aiming for sunset as the sky lights up with color when the sun sinks beneath the Adriatic Sea over this twinkling city with its snaky roads and rocky islands.
5. Hakone Ropeway – Hakone, Japan
With over two million riders a year, the Hakone Ropeway is hailed as the world’s busiest gondola, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This 30 minute journey takes visitors 2.5 miles from Togendai Station on the shores of Lake Ashi to Sounzan Station in Hakone, an area known for its hot spring baths. It makes two stops along the way and promises views of the snowcapped Mount Fuji, the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Ashi, the volcanic fumes of Owakudani and forested mountains. The trams run at one minute intervals to the tourist busy town of Hakone, where locals tell visitors to eat a hardboiled egg that has been soaked in the sulfur rich water in order to add seven more years to their life. We aren’t too sure about the jet black egg, but we are sure about making this tram ride a must do while in Japan.
4. Langkawi SkyCab – Langkawi, Malaysia
The SkyCab is located at the oldest part of South East Asia and whisks visitors over jungle and rock that is 550 million years old. There are actually three parts of this tram ride, first the base station located at the foot of the Machincang Mountain where visitors catch the tram. The second station is in the middle at an elevation of 650 m above sea level that provides panoramic views of the main island. There are viewing platforms available and here is the chance to get up close to the unique flora. The top station sits at an elevation of 708 m above sea level and features two viewing platforms that offer dramatic views. The entire journey takes about 15 minutes if you choose not to get off and takes you to the island’s second highest peak, Mount Machincang.
3. Ngong Ping 360 – Hong Kong, China
It is hailed as being one of the world’s best cable car experiences and with its choice of cabins, incredible views and cultural village, it is easy to see why. The journey is 3.5 miles one way and takes visitors between Tung Chung Town and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. To start off the gondola makes a hard turn to begin its journey over the stunning Tung Chung Bay and into the lush green mountains of Lantau Island. The views include the South China Sea, the Tian Tan Buddha Statue, the International Airport and the flora and fauna of North Lantau Country Park. For those visitors wanting to splurge, book the incredible crystal cabins that are outfitted with a glass floor, giving you a bird’s eye views over all the sights. You will end up at the touristy Ngong Ping Village where you can visit the monastery, see the giant Buddha statue and explore the museum of cable car replicas from around the world.
2. Stanserhorn CabriO – Stans, Switzerland
It is the world’s first double-decker, open-top tram in the world and for those of you who are afraid of heights – you may want to skip it. Opened in June 2012, this cable car zips visitors 3,737 feet to the top of Stanserhorn. The lower level of the car with floor to wall windows fits a comfortable 60 people. Taking the staircase to the top is most recommended where an additional 30 people can fit. Fresh mountain area, 360 degree panoramic views and the wind in your hair is what you can expect up here. It takes just six and a half minutes to reach the top and before you know it the rolling green hills, towering mountains and bright blue waters will be below you. It may be the first open-air tram but we doubt it will be the last.
1. Grenoble-Bastille Cable Car – Grenoble, France
Since 1934, a steel cable has connected Grenoble to the summit all year round, in the world’s first urban route that opened with 12-sided cabins painted blue. Nowadays the cable cars look a little different in their ultra modern bubble shape with floor to ceiling windows in a cool silver and red color. Made of plexi-glass and steel these cabins fit six people each and are responsible for taking visitors from the banks of the Isere River to the ancient Bastille fortifications, in just four minutes. Safety is their number one priority here and in January these cable cars shut down for 20 days in order to perform drills, checks and maintenance. On a clear day, not only will visitors have sweeping views of the city of Grenoble but can also see the gorgeous Alps including the iconic Mont Blanc.
There is something about a tropical Island that can turn even the most stressed out, overworked person into a relaxed and rejuvenated individual. Unlike taking a rushed weekend trip to a crowded beach nearby and staying in a chain hotel, the lure of a small resort surrounded by palm trees and clear blue water is a dream many people have. The Islands and beautiful beaches in Asia are some of the very best in the world and offer visitors everything from small secluded resorts on white sand beaches to social tourist hot spots with a party atmosphere. No matter what, you’ll be able to find an island that caters to your needs giving you a great experience with prices that will make your friends jealous. Quit dreaming and start planning that trip of a lifetime cause we’ve compiled an easy list of recommendations for the best tropical islands in Asia!
10. Tioman Island, Malaysia
Located in the South China Sea, a 40 minute flight from the capital of Kuala Lumpur, this 29,000 acre island offers coral reefs and clear water. Here you have the option of a simple hotel located in a seaside village or a resort on a secluded beach. Spend your time on the island jungle trekking seeing the exotic wildlife like monitor lizards and monkeys or visiting one of the many waterfalls. You can check out one of the villages and get to know the locals, do some duty free shopping or spend some time on the 18-hole golf course. Of course you are never far away from the beaches. Whether you like scuba diving, snorkeling or just reclining in a beach chair with a cool drink, the beaches are only a few steps away. Unlike some of the more crowded destinations, Tioman Island can be your relaxing trip of a lifetime.
9. Panglao Island, Philippines
Unlike the more famous island of Boracay, Panglao Island is less crowded and less of a party atmosphere. Located off the Southwestern tip of Bohol connected by a bridge, the island is a great place for families and couples to relax and enjoy the laid back island life. Boats line up on the beach daily for island hopping and dolphin watching excursions. Nature preserves, cave tours and the UNESCO listed Chocolate Hills are easy day tours. Another great place to visit is thePhilippine Tarsier Foundation where 331 acres have been set aside for the research and protection of the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest mammals in the world. Ecotourism, world heritage sites and beautiful white sand beaches make this Island one of our top picks and one you should definitely visit.
8. Akajima Island, Japan
An Island belonging to the Kerama Islands group in Okinawa, Aka Island can be reached by a one hour high speed ferry from the capital of Okinawa. Popular with Japanese tourists you won’t find many foreigners here. Visit the beautiful Nishibama Beach a one km stretch of white beach on the northeast coast, enjoy humpback whale watching, snorkeling and diving. Aka Island is popular with marine biologists due to the diversity of sea life and coral reefs. While most tourists visit on a day trip there are a few hotels and hostels where you can stay and relax for a few days. A small island, it is easily explored on foot. You might even catch a glimpse of the famed Kerala deer which swim between the islands. If you are looking for a quiet place to enjoy nature and get away from the crowds, Aka Island is a good choice.
7. Efate, Vanuatu
Efate has been the site of three international versions of the popular “Survivor” television show. Efate is Vanuatu’s third largest island and the most populous. With Eco tours, adventure activities such as jungle zip lines, scuba and snorkeling, markets and nightlife, it is no wonder Efate is a popular destination. For a glimpse of what ancestral islanders lived like, a visit to the Ekasup cultural village is a must. Learn firsthand from the village chief and his warriors about how it was when cannibalism was the order of the day. Visit the tranquil Mele Cascades waterfalls, take a volcano tour by air or enjoy one of the island’s beaches. There are also several fishing charters available if you’re looking to land the big one. There are several day tours available, water parks and various water sport activities to make your trip more memorable. Accommodations range from luxurious resorts and spas to budget hotels.
6. Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, named after famed British explorer Captain James Cook, who visited the islands in 1773. Rarotonga has everything you would expect to find on a tropical island. Crystal clear blue lagoons, little traffic except for an island bus and some scooters, bone white beaches and coral reefs. Inland you will find a rugged tropical landscape teeming with wildlife and terraces where bananas, coconuts and pineapples are planted. The island is known for its beautiful white coral and limestone churches. If you happen to visit one for Sunday services don’t be surprised if you are invited to stay after for refreshments. A market day happens every Saturday where you can sample local food and buy some souvenirs. There is also a golf course, fishing expeditions and numerous diving sites to enjoy. With no streetlights, friendly people and beautiful beaches you may not ever want to leave.
5. The Maldives, South Asia
A tropical nation, the Maldives is made up of 26 coral atolls. Located in the Indian Ocean. You can take your pick of resort islands, private islands, city hotels or a cozy guest house. Scuba diving, golf and island hopping await you on what could be the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy dolphin and whale watching, take a day trip to one of the uninhabited islands for a private getaway, enjoy local food or spend the day shopping. For divers, a wreck dive at the site of the Maldives Victory, is a definite must do. A 60 meter long cargo wreck lying 20-30 meters deep is where you can explore the cargo holds and check out the sea life. Accommodations range from budget friendly, cottages perched on stilts over the water and super luxurious resorts. Spend your days diving, exploring the city of Male or relaxing on the beach. When nighttime comes, head out to one of the resort bars or take a walk on the beach,but beware the crabs tend to enjoy the beaches at night also.
4. Ambergris Caye, Belize
The largest island in Belize can be reached by plane or ferry. Besides having some fantastic beaches, Ambergris is home to the Belize Barrier Reef which is the second largest reef in the world second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. While diving, snorkeling and fishing are some of the main attractions you should also visit the Marco Gonzalez Maya site. There are over 19 sites on the island, but none had ever been preserved until 2009 when efforts to begin preservation started. The site is now a national reserve that has a visitor area along with continuing excavations. Relax on the beaches, dive the reefs or just sit and enjoy the atmosphere at one of the many beach bars on the island at the end of the day.
3. Tahiti, French Polynesia
What would a list of the best tropical islands be without including Tahiti? The largest island in French Polynesia, Tahiti is another island on one of Captain James Cook’s travels. Tahiti also known as the “Queen of the Pacific” has been visited at one time or another by Spanish explorers, British explorers to include Captain Bligh and the HMS Bounty, French explorers, the Viceroy of Peru, whalers from Australia and missionaries from all over. They must have known something, and that is, Tahiti is a beautiful place. You can enjoy professional surfing competitions, several festivals throughout the year or if you’re brave enough – get a traditional Polynesian tattoo. You’ll have to spend time at one of the nature parks, enjoy the watersports, take a boat tour, visit some of the historical sites or just enjoy the beaches, Tahiti can be a dream vacation.
2. Koh Lipe, Thailand
Thailand used to be a place where you could find secluded beaches and islands with little or no tourists. Recent movies, travel blogs and press have made Thailand more popular than ever. There is one place that you can still get away from the majority of the tourists and enjoy a tranquil tropical paradise. Koh Lipe is an island located on the southern part of the Thai Andaman Sea accessible by boat from either Bangkok or Malaysia. There are several beaches and nearby uninhabited islands reachable by long boat. Rent a long boat for a day trip and go island hopping where you can lounge on a deserted beach or go snorkeling on Sunrise Beach and get up close to schools of fish. Come watch the sunset on the beach or visit one of the island bars but don’t tell anyone, Koh Lipe is our secret.
1. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is an island and province in Indonesia, also the country’s largest tourist destination. Bali offers coral reefs and dive sites, surfing, vibrant nightlife and activities for singles, couples and families. The majority of the population is Hindu and there are several temples worth visiting. Goa Lawah Temple or the Bat Cave as it is known as a popular destination along with Tanah Lot temple which sits on a rock and is completely surrounded by water during high tide. Go white water rafting, visit the waterpark or one of the nature reserves, go hiking, learn to scuba dive, surf or just enjoy the hospitality of the Balinese people. Bali is a large island with lots to see and do so if you plan to visit give yourself time to really experience and enjoy the island, and no, we won’t call your boss for you and tell him you won’t be back to work on time.
We assume some cities to be de facto tourist meccas; we’re told over and over again that places like Paris, London and Rome are places that every traveler must visit in their lifetime. But have you ever wondered just how many people visit some of these cities each year—or, indeed, which cities attract the largest share of international tourists? While some of the tried-and-true destinations have made the cut for 2015, other entries on the list of the top 15 most visited cities might surprise you.
15. Milan, Italy
Perhaps most famous as Italy’s fashion powerhouse, the city of Milan is much more than that. Located in northern Italy, it is also home to Italy’s largest stock exchange, two major soccer teams and numerous theaters, museums and monuments. Milan has something to offer each one of its seven plus million visitors each year. Notable sites around the city include the Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage site decorated by Leonardo da Vinci paintings. Although the city itself is entirely flat terrain, the nearby Alps form part of its cityscape, and the city’s proximity to Alpine tourist destinations have positioned it as a gateway community. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the world’s oldest shopping mall and is located on the Piazza Duomo, near the fifth-largest church in the world, Milan Cathedral.
14. Rome, Italy
Given Rome’s ubiquitous position as the cradle of Western civilization and European civilization in particular, as well as its unique reputation as a tourist destination, it’s perhaps surprising that Rome didn’t rank higher on this list. Still, with a projected 7.4 million tourists in 2015, tourism to Rome is nothing to sneeze at. Rome is home to some of Europe’s most famous historical monuments, such as the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica. Religious tourism to Rome is still an important factor; although the Vatican is a separate state, it is located inside Rome and many visitors tour through Rome’s churches as well. Under the influence of numerous popes, Rome has undergone a program of patronage since the Renaissance that aimed to make it the cultural and artistic center of the world—a lofty goal and one that has resulted in Rome long being a mecca for people around the world.
13. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
When The Netherlands first legalized the sale of cannabis in coffee shops, a running joke became that most young North American tourists would hit Amsterdam for one reason and one reason alone. While some of the city’s 7.44 million international tourists might visit for that reason, there are many other things to do and see in the Dutch capital. Amsterdam is, of course, famous for its cannabis cafes and red light district, which attracts many visitors, but other aspects of its nightlife, including numerous discotheques and world-renowned jazz clubs, are equally attractive to tourists. The city’s architecture, historical buildings and many museums are also incentive for visitors. Anne Frank’s House and the Van Gogh Museum are just two of the many historic sites frequented by tourists. The city is also well-known for its system of canals, which add to its picturesque appeal.
12. Barcelona, Spain
Capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia, in Spain, Barcelona has a long history of tourism: in medieval times, it was an important site for Christian pilgrims. Today, the tourism industry is still an important and growing part of Barcelona’s economy, with more than 7.5 million people expected to visit the city in 2015. Barcelona rivals Madrid, the country’s capital, in terms of major attractions and historic sites; the city boasts no fewer than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and many museums. As the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean, Barcelona has also become internationally renowned for its many beaches; many Spaniards vacation in Barcelona for the beaches and the practice is catching on with foreign visitors. Notable sites include the fortress at Montjuic and the Basilica of La Merce, as well as the stunning, yet incomplete, Sagrada Familia Basilica.
11. Tokyo, Japan
Whether you’re looking for exciting subculture fashion, interested in experiencing the Japanese tradition of kabuki theater, or just want to eat the freshest sushi in the world, Tokyo has you covered. Japan’s capital city is a sprawling urban metropolis littered with skyscrapers, excellent restaurants and renowned museums, and interspersed with parks and greenspace. Various districts of the city are dedicated to nightlife (Roppongi and Shibuya), fashion subcultures (Harajuku) and electronics (Akihabara). Ancient Shinto shrines and historic castles are a testament to Tokyo’s long history as the center of Japanese culture, and now you can mingle with ultra-modern architecture like Tokyo Skytree and the iconic Tokyo Tower. With slightly over eight million foreign tourists expected in 2015, Tokyo continues to be one of the most visited cities in the world, although it remains outside of the top 10.
10. Hong Kong, China
In 1997, Hong Kong became an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Beginning in the 1970s, the city developed into a global metropolis, functioning as a center for trade and finance. Hong Kong also developed an entertainment industry, producing many popular kung-fu action films. Today, more than 8.5 million people visit the city each year, some for business and others for pleasure. The cityscape is decidedly modern, with the number of skyscrapers outnumbering any other city in the world; architecture has blended between Eastern and Western styles, and elements of traditional culture, like feng shui and dim sum, mingle easily with Western influences. Despite this, Hong Kong is also renowned for its geographical features: its deep harbor has made it an important port, nearby Mount Kowloon offers steep terrain and the rugged coastline has many excellent beaches.
9. Seoul, South Korea
More than 10 million foreign tourists are expected to visit Seoul in 2015. The financial, cultural and political heart of South Korea, Seoul was first designed as a capital city in the 14th century. The city’s lengthy list of historic buildings and UNESCO World Heritages sites includes palaces and temples, as well as the remains of neolithic settlements unearthed nearby. Two old residential districts are now preserved as museums to showcase traditional Korean culture and lifeways, including hanok houses. Seoul has many more museums, such as the Kimchi Field Museum. But Seoul isn’t all about the past; the city boasts some of the world’s most design-forward modern architecture and was named a World Design Capital in 2010. Ultra-modern buildings mingle with numerous parks, creating a unique and attractive cityscape near Mount Namsan.
8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The capital of Malaysia will attract more than 11 million international visitors in 2015, making it the 8th most visited city in the world. Tourism and shopping are major drivers of the Malaysian economy and nowhere is that more evident than Kuala Lumpur, which functions as the largest retail center in the country with 66 shopping malls. Major attractions include the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, the National Palace and the Jamek Mosque. Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, is another notable destination for tourists, and the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam and its procession to Batu Caves is a major cultural festival that attracts visitors from many different locales. The city also functions as a hub for entertainment, art and events, including sports and music festivals. Kuala Lumpur is also noted for its multiethnic blend of cuisines and architectures.
7. Singapore City, Singapore
Nearly 12 million people will visit the city-state of Singapore during the course of 2015. Over the last decade, the country has garnered a reputation for being a “luxury” destination, with many high-end hotel chains setting up shop, and the legalization of gambling heralding casino tourism. The island country’s biggest draw, however, is said to be its cuisine: Singapore’s multiethnic mix has led to a unique fusion of Indian, Malay and Chinese cuisines—like the Peranakan style of cooking, a hybridization of Chinese and Malay culinary traditions. There are many restaurants and, in fact, dining is said to be one of Singapore’s national pastimes. Architecture in the city-state similarly reflects the fusion of various cultural influences. Water sports such as sailing, scuba diving and water skiing are popular recreational pastimes, while soccer is a popular sport to watch.
6. New York City, United States
The only American entry on this list, New York City remains the U.S. destination of choice for international tourists, with over almost 12.3 million people expected to visit in 2015. Attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building continue to draw visitors, while major events like New York Fashion Week pulls in crowds from around the world. Times Square and Broadway also remain popular attractions for international visitors, while shopping, cuisine and nightlife are alluring for many others who choose to take a bite out of the Big Apple. Other notable sites include Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. For many, New York remains the premier American destination, ranking well ahead of other U.S. cities like Los Angeles. As America’s largest city, NYC is likely to remain the country’s biggest tourist draw as well.
5. Istanbul, Turkey
With over 12.5 million foreign tourists projected to visit in 2015, Istanbul is both the fastest growing destination in Europe and the 5th most visited city in the world. Located along the Bosphorus, the city has been an important center of European civilization since the time of the ancient Greeks. Situated at the heart of two historically important empires, Istanbul has a long and illustrious heritage. It’s easily one of Europe’s most multicultural cities, thanks to its unique positioning on the edge of both Europe and Asia. It was named a European Capital of Culture in 2012. The city boasts mosques and churches, bazaars and malls and a treasure trove of other attractions. Traditional Turkish cuisine, such as kebabs, are popular and the city is also well-known for a vibrant entertainment industry and nightlife. Its historic center, a partial UNESCO World Heritage site, remains the most popular tourist attraction.
4. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and has recently emerged onto the global stage through its innovative architecture, such as the world’s tallest skyscraper and its history of hosting major sporting events. A center of world banking, Dubai has earned a reputation for being both pricey and luxurious—as a vacation destination, it’s often lauded as a sort of playground for the rich and famous. Its skyline is dominated by the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building at 828 meters. The Burj al Arab is another iconic structure. Dubai’s attitude is clearly go big or go home: the Dubai Miracle Garden, opened in 2013, is the world’s largest flower garden and the Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world. More than 14 million people are expected to visit Dubai from other countries in 2015 as tourism continues to grow.
3. Paris, France
Oh Paris, the iconic city of love with its grandiose Eiffel Tower ranked 3rd on this list. Being the 3rd most visited city in the world says something about how many people travel here each year. Paris will attract over 16 million foreign tourists in 2015, and it is well behind the first and second-place cities. Nonetheless, Paris remains a top-tier destination for many travelers, often considered a must-take trip or a bucket-list destination. The capital of France is noted for its cuisine, including its many bistros and cafes, along with many 3-star restaurants. The Arc de Triomphe, the Palace of Versailles, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre are all popular tourist attractions. Paris is also known as a center of fashion, hosting the twice annual Paris Fashion Week. The city is also the host of several important sporting events, including the finish of the Tour de France and the Paris Grand Slam tennis tournament.
2. Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand’s capital city is on-track to receive more than 18 million foreign tourists in 2015, making it the second most visited city in the world. With world-class shopping and dining and a dynamic nightlife, Bangkok offers something for everyone to see and do. Another major driver of travel to Bangkok is sex tourism; Bangkok has actually earned the nickname “Sin City of Asia” as a result of how many visitors it receives on account of the industry. Other visitors are attracted by the city’s mix of historical buildings, showcasing a variety of influences and cultures. Notable sites are Wat Phra Kaew, a Buddhist temple in the Grand Palace, and Jim Thompson House, considered an outstanding example of Thai architecture. As the seat of the Thai government and the royal family, Bangkok is also a hub for major cultural events, such as religious celebrations and festivals.
1. London, United Kingdom
London is projected to receive almost 19 million foreign tourists in 2015, making it the most visited city in the world. The U.K.’s capital ranks among its European counterparts, like Paris and Rome, boasting numerous landmarks, iconic monuments and a host of other tourist attractions. The city has numerous museums and a strong arts scene, as well as a world-renowned shopping district (High Street) and fashion industry, which includes the twice-annual London Fashion Show. Notable sites include Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, the Shard, Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. The city also has a large theater district in the West End, with more than 40 theaters. The British Museum, the Tate Museum and the National Gallery were the top three attractions in 2010. Even the transit system is iconic: the London Underground is the oldest underground railway in the world.
Tourism to the Asia/Pacific region has been on the rise for a while now, as travel becomes increasingly affordable to more people, businesses expand into new countries and cities and as young people become increasingly infatuated with exploring. And why not? With a host of colorful cities, storied history and amazing sightseeing, Asia/Pacific destinations deserve to be on your travel itinerary. Not sure which city to visit first (or next)? Take a look at 2015’s most popular destination cities in the region to help get you started on your next trip.
10. Osaka, Japan
Although less frequented than Tokyo on the travel circuit, Osaka is Japan’s second-largest city, with nearly 19 million inhabitants, and has long been an important center in the country. In fact, Osaka was even declared the capital city during the 8th and 9th centuries. In the Edo years, Osaka maintained its economic importance as a major center of the rice trade. A booming economy led to a burgeoning cultural scene, something that continued to develop during the 19th century as Osaka modernized. Today, Osaka has many attractions that can give Tokyo a run for its money—from amusement parks to kabuki theater, from cuisine to historical monuments, Osaka is a destination that offers a little something for everyone, so it’s little wonder more than 4.5 million people will have visited in 2015. Stop by Shitenno-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, or the landmark Osaka Castle.
9. Mumbai, India
Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the most populous city in India. It’s also the most popular city for travelers to visit—nearly five million of them in 2015—which is little surprise as Mumbai is the economic and entertainment capital of India. Mumbai’s cityscape is also impressive, with an eclectic mix of architectural styles documenting the city’s long history. Mumbai has the second-largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world, and skyscrapers now form a major portion of the city’s panorama. Mumbai is the birthplace of Indian cinema and hosts a large number of film festivals; Bollywood and Marathi films can be seen at many cinemas. Mumbai is also home to a well-funded contemporary art movement and has several art museums and galleries. The city functions as a major cultural center and hosts plenty of festivals throughout the year, with Christian, Hindu and Muslim traditions all represented.
8. Shanghai, China
Perhaps more iconic than even the capital city of Beijing, Shanghai is, for many people, the representative city of China, which is how it attracts nearly six million visitors every year. The largest Chinese city and, in fact, the largest city in the world by some counts, Shanghai originally developed as a major center thanks to its strategic position at the mouth of the Yangtze River. It became an important hub during the colonial period, which helped bolster its international reputation. Today, Shanghai is the economic center of China, with major industrial, commercial and financial sectors operating there. Shanghai has long been multicultural, which is demonstrated by its mix of architectural styles, its religious heritage and even in the history of its most famous garment, the cheongsam. Shanghai is also an important hub for sports, being home to several professional soccer teams and the annual Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix.
7. Taipei, Taiwan
As the center of Taiwan, Taipei is an important hub for economic, political and cultural activity, which is probably why more than 6.5 million people will visit the city in 2015. Taipei boasts many architectural and cultural landmarks, including museums, temples and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Taipei is also remarked for its geography, as it lies on an ancient lakebed between 2 small rivers; the nearby natural hot springs are world-renowned. Taipei also hosts many major festivals, such as the New Year’s Lantern Festival, a Dragon Boat Festival and the mid-autumn Moon Festival. The city is home to Taipei 101, a supertall skyscraper that was the tallest building in the world until 2010. Ximending has become famous for its shopping and entertainment. The city is also famed for its many night markets, street markets that operate during the evening, which are popular with citizens and tourists alike.
6. Tokyo, Japan
Japan’s capital city is one of those destinations that “has it all”. Whether you’re looking for new and exciting fashion, interested in taking in traditional kabuki and noh plays, want to go shopping or just want to eat the freshest sushi in the world, Tokyo is your one-stop shopping destination. Tokyo is a sprawling city with many museums, temples, historic buildings and, yes, districts dedicated to nightlife, fashion subcultures and electronics. Climb Tokyo Skytree to get a new perspective on the urban sprawl or head out of town to climb Mount Fuji. Visit the castle, where the emperor and his family reside, or take a trip to Akihabara to check out the latest in electronics. After a long day, hit up Shibuya and Roppongi for a taste of trendy Tokyo nightlife. No wonder more than eight million people will stop off in this city in 2015.
5. Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong’s deep natural harbor and turbulent history saw it remain a British colony until near the end of the 20th century. In 1997, the city became an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Before that, however, Hong Kong had developed into a global metropolis, functioning as a center for trade and finance from the 1970s on. Today, more than 8.5 million people visit the city each year. Hong Kong has been described as the point where East meets West, with modernization and Western influences blending easily with traditions like feng shui and dim sum. The city is also a hub for the entertainment industry, producing many popular kung-fu action films. It’s renowned for beaches along its rugged coastline and with Mount Kowloon nearby with its extensive network of trails and steep terrain, which is popular among hikers. The city’s skyline contains the most skyscrapers in the world.
4. Seoul, South Korea
Seoul will have received more than 10 million visitors in 2015, which make the city the world’s 10th most visited destination. As South Korea’s most populous and capital city, Seoul is the financial, cultural and political heart of the country. Seoul has been a capital city since the 14th century, and so it has a lengthy roster of historically important buildings and UNESCO World Heritages sites, including palaces and temples, as well as the remains of neolithic settlements. Seoul also has many museums and parks which form an important part of the cityscape. Two old residential districts are now preserved as museums to showcase traditional Korean culture and lifeways, including hanok houses. The Kimchi Field Museum is dedicated to traditional Korean cuisine. Seoul is also renowned for its modern architecture and was named World Design Capital in 2010.
3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The capital of Malaysia will attract more than 11 million international visitors in 2015; in fact, the city has received at least that many visitors since 2012 and tourism growth shows no signs of slowing down. Tourism and shopping are major drivers of the Malaysian economy and nowhere is that more evident than Kuala Lumpur. Major attractions include the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world, the National Palace and the Jamek Mosque. Petaling Street and Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown is another notable destination for tourists, as well as the annual Thaipusam procession to Batu Caves, a major cultural festival that attracts many visitors each year. The city is a hub for entertainment, art and events, including sports and music festivals. Greenspace is also important in the city, with many parks offering recreational opportunities. The Cultural Crafts Complex demonstrates the traditional processes for textile, ceramic and metal crafting.
2. Singapore, Malaysia
With nearly 12 million international visitors set to touch down in 2015, there’s definitely more to Singapore than the infamous Singapore Sling. Singapore is not only a city, it’s a city-state—meaning it’s also its own sovereign nation. Singapore is a global city, with an important financial sector and a busy shipping port. Cuisine is one of the country’s major attractions, with dining said to be a national pastime. Singapore’s multiethnic mix has led to a unique fusion of Indian, Malay and Chinese cuisines—like the Peranakan style of cooking, which blends Chinese and Malay gourmets. Of course, the multicultural tendencies of the country have also led to mixed styles of architecture and religious celebrations in the city-state. Singapore has also earned a reputation for luxury, with gambling and casinos becoming an increasing part of the tourist economy in the last decade.
1. Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand’s capital city is on-track to receive over 18 million foreign tourists in 2015, and it’s not hard to see what makes Bangkok so popular. With a mix of historical sites and buildings, shopping and dining and a dynamic nightlife, Bangkok offers something for everyone to see and do. Another major driver of Bangkok tourism is sex tourism—so much so that Bangkok has been nicknamed the “Sin City of Asia”. Among the notable sites in the city are Wat Phra Kaew, a Buddhist temple in the Grand Palace, and Jim Thompson House, an exemplar of Thai architecture. The city’s National Gallery showcases the development of Thai art. As the seat of the Thai government and the royal family, Bangkok is also a hub for the celebration of major festivals and holidays, such as the annual Songkran celebrations every April.
While skyscrapers and aspiring to reach the heavens have been fundamental fascinations in North American architecture and engineering for decades now, the trend has caught fire in many places in Asia, where towers now eclipse older Western buildings (and each other) on a regular basis. This development affords tourists more opportunity to get above it all and see some of Asia’s most iconic cityscapes from a dizzying new perspective. Representing a mix of old and new, traditional and modern, here are the best observation decks on the rapidly changing Asian landscape today.
10. Seoul Tower, South Korea
A tower with many names, including N Seoul Tower, YTN Seoul Tower and Namsan Tower, this building stands 236 meters high and marks the highest point in Seoul, South Korea’s capital. Located on Namsan Mountain, the tower functions for both telecommunications and observation. Constructed in 1971, it is Korea’s first general radio wave tower. The tower is renowned as a national landmark, and photographers and visitors alike relish the tower for the cityscapes it provides. Every year, thousands of tourists and locals visit the tower, especially during nighttime light displays such as the “Reeds of Light” and “Showers of Light,” which are created with LED technology. In addition to the four observation decks, the tower has developed into a full-scale tourist attraction, with museums, cafes and gift shops. One of the observatories is a digital display that showcases Korea’s history. Visitors can ride the Namsan cable car to the tower.
9. National Monument, Indonesia
This tower stand 433-feet tall (132-meter), situated in Merdeka Square isn’t just another skyscraper built to have a claim to fame. The obelisk monument symbolizes the fight for Indonesian independence. After independence was finally granted from Dutch colonial powers in 1950, the Indonesian government contemplated building a commemorative monument outside the presidential palace in Jakarta. Finished in 1975, the national monument achieved exactly that, as it was topped with a gold-foiled flame. Today, the Monument is open to the public every day between 8 am and 3 pm. Long lines build quickly, so it’s best to go early. Ride the lift to the observation deck, 115 meters above the ground, and view the cityscape of the Indonesian capital sprawling in all directions. Afterwards, visit the National History Museum and the associated dioramas about Indonesian history and independence.
8. Ushiku Daibutsu, Japan
This observation deck is a bit of an oddity on a list that includes mostly communications towers and skyscrapers, but that’s part of the reason Ushiku Daibutsu is one of Asia’s best observation decks. Rather than another spire or office building, Ushiku Daibutsu is a 390-foot (120-meter) tall statue of Amitabha Buddha, built to commemorate Shinran, the founder of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. The observation deck is located at 279 feet (85 meters), on the fourth floor of the statue. Visitors can look out over the adjacent flower garden and animal park. The three floors below the observation deck feature golden Buddha statues, scriptural studies and smoking incense, serving as a kind of museum. For almost 10 years, between 1993 and 2002, it was the world’s tallest statue; today, only two other statues surpass its height.
7. International Commerce Center, China
Built on top of Kowloon Station in Hong Kong, this development is part of the Union Square project. In 2014, it was the world’s eighth tallest building by height and the tallest building in Hong Kong. The observatory, called Sky100, is located on the hundredth floor of the building. It opened in 2011 and is currently the highest observation deck in Hong Kong, at 1,289 feet (393 meters) above the ground. Two high-speed elevators take visitors to the observation deck at 100 feet per second, making the trip about 13 seconds long. An advanced telescope provides visitors with pre-recorded views, including “sunny days,” “night view” and “fireworks.” On-screen indicators direct attention to landmarks such as Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong. Just above the 100th floor, visitors will find a café serving snacks and refreshments, as well as a restaurant.
6. Skybridge at Petronas Towers, Malaysia
Located in the Malaysian capital, the Petronas Towers held the record for world’s tallest buildings between 1998 and 2004, and they remain the tallest twin towers in the world today. Rising a staggering 1,483 feet (452 meters), the towers dominate the skyline of Kuala Lumpur. One of the main features of the buildings is the double-decker Skybridge, the highest two story bridge in the world. Connecting the 41st and 42nd floors between the two towers, it floats 558 feet above the ground, providing structural support to the towers. Visitors are limited to 1,000 people per day, and tickets must be purchased. Visitors can opt to visit just the Skybridge or to purchase a package that includes a visit to the 86th floor of the tower. As prominent landmarks, the towers have featured in many movies and TV shows and, of course, provide a stunning view of Kuala Lumpur.
5. Bitexco Financial Tower Skydeck, Vietnam
Sometimes called the Saigon Skydeck or simply Skydeck, this observation deck occupies the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The building is mixed-use shopping, office and restaurant space, and was once the tallest building in Vietnam, although it has since been displaced. It stands at 861 feet (around 263 meters) and is said to have been inspired by the lotus, Vietnam’s national flower. The Skydeck opened in 2011 and a ticket costs around $10. Currently the tallest skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh City, it provides unparalleled views of the cityscape. The deck itself is glass-enclosed and the building’s helipad serves as the roof. Nonetheless, you’ll still want to go on a clear day to get the best visibility or to see a fantastic sunset. Restaurants in the building offer a spot to check out some authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
4. Oriental Pearl Tower, China
Located at the tip of Lujiazui in Shanghai’s Pudong district, on the banks of the Huangpu River, the Oriental Pearl Tower has become both a landmark and major tourist attraction in the area. Between 1994 and 2007, it was the tallest building in China, measuring 1,535 feet in height (468 meters) from bottom to the tip of its antenna spire. The tower serves telecommunications purposes, but it also has a shopping mall, a hotel, a restaurant and not just one observation deck, but three. The highest observation deck is the Space Module, located at 350 meters and has an outdoor viewing area. The building is lit up with LED displays at night, which highlight its unique construction, featuring 11 spheres, the largest of which have diameters of 50 and 45 meters, respectively. This tower isn’t just an observation deck; it’s an experience in and of itself!
3. Marina Bay Sands Skypark, Singapore
Billed as the best view in Singapore, the Skypark is part of the Marina Bay Sands resort on the island. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it forms part of the integrated resort, which boasts a shopping center, a hotel, restaurants and a casino as well. The SkyPark is a one hectare terrace that sits atop the three hotel towers and features several restaurants and the world’s longest elevated swimming pool. The observation deck itself is open to the public (although you need to purchase a ticket) and sits on a cantilever. It provides a stunning 360-degree view of the Singapore skyline, which is spectacular at night and during the day. Because of the awe-inspiring view it provides, some consider Skypark a compulsory activity if you visit Singapore. A popular tip: for just a few dollars more, skip the ticket, visit the bar and enjoy a drink as you gaze out over the cityscape.
2. Tokyo Skytree, Japan
While it’s not as iconic as Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree is the landmark tower’s successor. Proclaimed the tallest building in Japan in 2010, the tower serves as the primary television and radio broadcast site for the Kanto region, replacing Tokyo Tower. It is also the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest building, with only Burj Khalifa rising higher. It stands 2,080 feet (634 meters) high, towering over all other buildings in Tokyo. The tower uses LED illumination at night and has two alternating patterns, called Iki and Miyabi. Skytree now provides the single-best point of view for panoramas of Tokyo. The tower has two observation decks, one at 1,150 feet and the other at 1,480 feet. The upper observatory features a spiral skywalk and a section of glass flooring that gives downward views of the streets directly below.
1. Taipei 101, Taiwan
Formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, this supertall skyscraper had the distinction of being the world’s tallest building between 2004 and 2010, when it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Today, this 1,671 foot tall (509 meter) building is the tallest and greenest building in the world. It was the first building to break the half-kilometer mark. Its new name is derived from its 101 floors and its location in Taipei, Taiwan. Observation decks are located on the 88th, 89th and 91st floors; the 91st floor is an outdoor deck, while the lower floors are indoor. At 1,285 feet above the ground, the 91st floor is the highest platform in Taiwan and the second highest observation deck ever found in a skyscraper. That means Taipei 101 provides an unparalleled 360-degree view of the city skyline. Tickets can be purchased at the mall located in the building.
In the 21st century, train travel has been displaced by other modes of transport, like air travel and automobiles. But many travelers laud the experience of train travel; it’s often faster than a car and, unlike air travel, it allows you to see the landscape as you roll along toward your destination. Reflecting this, many train operations now offer luxury tours for travelers who want to ride in style without missing an opportunity for exploration. Combining amazing scenery, national treasures and elegance, here are 10 of the coolest train rides around the world.
10. Maharajas Express -India
Travel through India on this amazing train journey. Five different routes are offered, departing from either Mumbai or Delhi. Choose from a four day journey or an eight day grand tour of some of the most famous and majestic places on the Indian subcontinent. Partake in Hindu rituals at the ghats of the Ganges or witness a polo match played not on horses, but on the backs of elephants. From ancient civilizations to the Taj Mahal, you’ll see palaces and museums, national parks and beaches on the Heritage of India tour. On the Indian Splendor tour, you’ll have a chance to explore an abandoned kingdom and a dinosaur fossil park. Departures are limited, usually once per month between October and April, so if you want to travel on the Maharajas Express, you’ll want to plan in advance.
9. Grand Canyon -USA
Train travel is almost synonymous with the American West; train service was the glue that held the nation together until the mid-20th century. The Grand Canyon Railway captures the Old West feel with its stops at historic train depots and the El Tovar hotel, which was built in 1905. The railway has a number of unique passenger cars, including the dome cars that are peculiar to American railways. Two of the luxury parlor cars feature open-air platforms for observation. Trains depart the Williams depot daily and arrive at the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park two hours and 15 minutes later. The trains return to Williams around 3:30 in the afternoon. Along the 65-mile journey, the train passes through diverse terrain of the high Sonoran desert and mountainous areas, and passengers might sight any number of animals, including pronghorns, and a variety of plants.
8. The Ghan -Australia
Connecting Darwin at the northern tip of the Australian continent and Adelaide on the southern coast, The Ghan makes one of the most fascinating trips in the world. The Great Southern Rail-operated train travels almost 3,000 kilometers over the span of 54 hours, with a four hour stop over in Alice Springs. The train originally ran between Adelaide and Alice Springs, beginning operations in the late 1890s; it wasn’t until 2004 that Darwin was connected. The reasons are obvious: the route runs through vast swaths of the rugged Australian Outback. With the new train in operation, getting to Darwin and seeing the Outback has never been easier, although delays and track trouble still plague the line. Stops at Katherine and Alice Springs allow time for optional tours. The Ghan generally runs once a week, although two services operate weekly between June and September.
7. Blue Train -South Africa
The South African Blue Train is world-renowned for its luxury service, boasting butlers, two lounge cars, an observation car and private carriages with gold-tinted picture windows. The train takes passengers nearly 1,000 miles between Pretoria and Cape Town. Originally, the service was meant to connect passengers from Johannesburg to England-bound ships in Cape Town. There was a time when four routes were offered, but all have been discontinued except the route between Pretoria and Cape Town. The train makes at least one stop in either direction, allowing guests to explore the Open Mine Museum at Kimberley Station or enjoy a glass of sherry at Matjiesfontein. The journey takes passengers between inland and coastal areas, showcasing the spectacular scenery of the South African landscape. Passengers will journey across scrubland, through mountain foothills and across rivers in the height of luxury. Bring formal wear for your dinner engagement.
6. Trans-Siberian -Russia
Not just a single line, the Trans-Siberian Railway is rather a collection of lines that traverse the huge expanse of the Siberian hinterland, connecting European Russia with the Russian Far East, the Sea of Japan and branching into Mongolia, China and North Korea. It is the longest railway in the world, spanning 5,772 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok, and is still being expanded. Even before its completion in 1916, it had become a hotspot for travelers, who then wrote about their experiences. The journey from Moscow takes about six days and crosses seven time zones before dropping passengers on the Pacific Coast. The line is still incredibly important for the transportation of goods and people between Moscow and the Russian Far East, and its historical importance cannot be underscored enough. The journey might not be the most luxurious, but it is certainly a fascinating view of Russia.
5. Royal Scotsman -UK
If you look at many top-10 lists for rail travel, you’re almost bound to run into the Royal Scotsman, a luxury liner that offers charter tours of the Scottish Highlands in the UK. With a variety of tour options, ranging from two nights in the Highlands to the seven night Grand Tour of Britain, the journey makes plenty of time for stops at local attractions, such as castle ruins, whisky distilleries and iconic natural wonders. Some journeys even include outdoor pursuits like shooting clay pigeons. As you travel, the observation car provides spectacular views of the glens, lochs and villages that make up the Highland vistas. Dining makes use of the best local ingredients and experiences are mixed between formal and informal. Combining luxury with an amazing tour of the Scottish landscape like you’ve never seen before, it’s little wonder the Royal Scotsman ranks highly on so many travelers’ bucket lists!
4. Glacier Express -Switzerland
While the Glacier Express isn’t a very quick trip—in fact, it has a reputation for being the slowest express train in the world—you probably won’t mind as you pass through the Alps between St. Moritz and Zermatt in Switzerland. The 7.5-hour journey takes passengers across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the Oberalp Pass. Large portions of the railway use a rack-and-pinion system for ascending through the steep Alpine inclines—up to 6, 670 feet at its zenith! Running east-west almost across the length of the country, the train travels through a number of important sites: the Albula/Bernina section of the trip are part of a World Heritage Site and the train journeys through the Rhine Gorge and up to the Matterhorn in Zermatt. Since the 1980s, the trains have run year-round, which means this spectacular trip can be enjoyed by travelers no matter the season.
3. Eastern & Oriental Express -Thailand to Singapore
The Oriental Express is an actual train service, journeying through the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and, since 2007, Laos. The tour starts in Singapore and stops in Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth and Kanchanaburi before arriving in Bangkok. A guided tour of the River Kwai and a tour of Georgetown, near Penang, are included on the most popular route, although there are nine routes to choose from. The Singapore-Bangkok route takes three days to complete. The journey has been awarded a place on the Society of International Railway Travelers’ “Top 25 Trains” list, earning points for service, dining, beauty and off-train experiences. The service is operated by Belmond, a renowned name in luxury train travel, and is considered one of the best ways to explore Southeast Asia. In 2015, two new “signature journeys” were introduced.
2. Hiram Bingham -Peru
Hop aboard this luxury liner and ride the rails between the city of Cusco and the ancient Inca capital of Machu Picchu. This ride consistently makes the top-10 lists for travelers visiting Peru, and not only because it heads up to the sacred Inca city. Part of the Orient Express, the train operates in both directions and is named after the discoverer of Machu Picchu. Combine slithering through the soaring Andes in the Incan outback with fine dining and a relaxing four hour trip. Guests have brunch on the trip to Aguas Caliente, and dinner if they catch the late train back to Cusco. A local band provides live entertainment during the trip and guests can sample the Peruvian drink pisco as the train rumbles alongside the Urubamba River, which flows from the Sacred Valley. The observation car features an open deck for passengers to better enjoy the view!
1. Rocky Mountaineer -Canada
The Rocky Mountaineer isn’t one route, but four routes running between Alberta and British Columbia in Western Canada. Formed in 1990, the company operates the busiest privately owned passenger rail service in North America, with more than one million passengers having boarded the train since its inception. The Rocky Mountaineer is a perennial favorite among train travel enthusiasts, having been named the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” seven times and the Society of American Travel Writers’ top train ride in 2009. All four routes run through the rugged Canadian Rockies, some of them following historic routes such as the Canadian Pacific. In 2013, it was announced that a three day trip from Seattle would be offered. All trains operate during the day, with some overnight stops, between May and September. The “Journey through the Clouds” takes passengers over the Canadian National railway through the Rockies, between Vancouver and Jasper.
There is no better way to explore the underwater world of marine animals, shipwrecks, fascinating coral towers, limestone formations and schools of colorful fish than scuba diving. Whether you are a beginner or an expert with decades of experience, the amazing underwater world you can discover around the planet is absolutely mind-blowing. From hammerhead sharks to manta rays to ancient cenotes; these 10 locations around the world are the best of the best.
10. Cozumel, Mexico
Divers will certainly have their choice of dive operators on this island as there are more than 100 offering everything from deep dives, wreck dives, night dives, and underwater photography dives. This world-class diving site offers everything from swim throughs to tunnels to walls of coral to cenotes to sharks to rays. It is best to dive here in the summer when the water temperature is warmer and the hotel prices are cheaper. Cozumel is also known for its incredible visibility and deep dives. Divers can expect up to 100 feet of visibility. There are plenty of dives both for the beginner and advanced but visitors should be aware that the current can be especially strong in some sites and diving experience is recommend for these. With the 600-mile long Maya Reef that stretches from Cozumel to Central America, and boasts an abundance of colorful fish and coral, it is easy to see why Cozumel is a premier diving spot.
9. Hawaii, U.S.A
This Pacific paradise attracts divers from all over the world, both beginners and experienced. The remoteness of Hawaii means fewer fish species than waters like the Caribbean, but offers the chance to discover marine life found nowhere else on earth. One of the most popular dives in the world occurs off the island of Kona, the manta ray night dive. Divers descend into the darkness while giant manta rays swim overhead, most describe it is as truly magical. Diving off Lana’I is popular amongst those looking to discover new fish and rare invertebrates while Moloka’i offers divers the chance to catch a glimpse of the rare Hawaiian monk seal and hammerhead sharks. Kaua’i is home to an abundance of collapsed lava tubes and huge green sea turtles that aren’t afraid to get their pictures taken. Divers who are in the water from December to April may be able to hear the song of the humpback whales as they migrate through these waters.
8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is so large that one can actually see it from space and has been known over the years for being one of the world’s most premier diving spots. It stretches 1,430 miles along Australia’s northeastern coast and offers over 4,000 separate reefs, cays and islands. It could truly take more than a lifetime to explore this entire reef which features over 1,500 species of fish and shipwrecks. It is the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef system that teams with biodiversity and an array of species you won’t find anywhere else. Divers here will come face to face with large sea turtles, reef sharks, sea snakes, barracudas and dolphins. The size and variety of this reef makes it perfect for any type of diver and visitors won’t be hard pressed to find an operator in one of the many seaside towns.
7. The French Polynesian Islands
It has long been known as a destination for honeymooners and other species of lovebirds, but besides the gorgeous white sand beaches over the water bungalows and framed palm trees lays a world to discover under the water. There are over 118 islands and atolls throughout this vast area and with 11 of them offering diving centers; it is easy to be overwhelmed with choices on where to dive. Fortunately there is an array of varied dives, from the shallow lagoons for beginners to the drop-offs and passes for the advanced divers. Moorea Island is also known as ‘Shark World’ and is famous for its hand-fed shark and stingray dives. The atoll Rangiroa is also known for both its calm lagoon that teems with marine life and it’s thrilling passes that feature sharks, big fish species and turtles. These waters explode with colorful coral, fish, sharks and other marine species that proudly show themselves off. No matter where you dive, this promises to be unforgettable.
6. Roatan and The Bay Islands, Honduras
This popular diving spot has been attracting divers for decades as it feature amazing shipwrecks and endless colorful coral. It is here that the world’s second largest barrier reef is located and divers will be privy to swimming with eagle rays, schools of colorful fish and the all mighty whale sharks. Utila is where divers will head if they want to swim with these majestic creatures and it is one of the only places year round that the whale sharks can be seen. This destination is inclusive for all levels of divers and whether you are just getting your feet wet, or you have been diving for years, there is an experience here for you unlike anywhere else in the world.
It is blessed with some of the richest waters and diving here offers experiences unlike any other in the world. Sipadan, the little island off the east coast of Borneo is what most divers come to experience. It lies in one of the richest marine habitats in the world and boasts an extremely high number of turtles, grey and whitetip reef sharks, and large schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda and trevally. Layang-Layang is another reason to dive in these waters as this little speck of an atoll is fringed by some of the best coral fields in the world along with its huge schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Where you want to dive and what you want to see will determine the best time of year to visit these waters as different seasons bring different water conditions.
4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
It is where Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, a place where countless mammals, reptiles and birds thrive and its waters are some of the most pristine areas left to dive in this world. These waters work best for experienced divers as currents are strong and conditions are often choppy. The tiny Darwin Island is an excellent choice for divers as the waters are full of fur seals, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, marine iguanas and schools of sharks. Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos is home to penguins that shoot by you, sea lions, sea turtles, and a challenging underwater volcano that is swarming with Galapagos sharks, along with schools of hammerheads and barracudas. July to November is when divers choose to head here as the sharks tend to be the most active and plentiful. These waters deserve at least two weeks to explore and promise to surprise you at every twist and turn.
3. Turks and Caicos
It boasts some of the clearest water in the world and with so many islands that are uninhabited; it makes for a perfect place to escape the crowds of the Caribbean. Turks and Caicos is not only known for its brilliant turquoise water but also for its incredible wall diving. It is here you will dive into the world’s third largest coral reef system and find drops that plunge hundreds of feet into the deep. The Columbus Passage, a 35-kilometer channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands is a water highway for migrating fish, rays, turtles, dolphins and Humpback whales from January through March. With incredibly calm waters and an abundance of marine life, every dive here promises to be thrilling.
Belize is most widely known for its famous dive spot the Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that descends over 400 feet. To dive the Blue Hole it is recommend that you are an experienced diver and you are well prepared for this magical experience. The Blue Hole doesn’t teem with colorful fish or coral; in fact the only marine life you might see deep in the depths of this hole is a hammerhead or reef shark. Instead you will dive into an ancient geographical phenomena complete with an array of limestone formations and bizarre stalactites. If you want colorful fish and coral, Belize offers plenty of that along the reef and is home to many species of sharks, rays, barracudas and many species of fish. Belize is known as a destination for the more adventurous divers and you will certainly benefit if you have some experience under your belt before you travel to this country.
1. The Red Sea, Egypt
For many people, Egypt is known for its incredible above the water attractions and although one should not discount the ancient monuments and pyramids, it is below the water that is the real jewel of the country. Divers here are privy to hundreds of miles of coral, millions of fish, warm water, great visibility, sheltered reefs, walls, coral gardens and wrecks. This destination is also known for having an excellent availability of instructors which makes the Red Sea a perfect spot for learning how to dive. Drift dives are quite common in the Red Sea due to currents as are night dives amongst towering coral and schools of fish. Whale sharks, moray eels, barracudas and tuna are all spotted throughout these waters. The warm water temperature year round makes diving here at anytime an unforgettable experience.
Passengers who fly a lot often or even just once in a while dread having a layover in a strange airport within a strange city. But flyers need not worry if they are flying through one of these remarkable airports. Some of these airports are futuristic, others are friendly and many of them offer extraordinary amenities and close access to visit cities. What they all offer is a unique and easy way to enjoy a short or long layover, with free showers, movie theaters and even a full 9-hole golf course. Discover the best of the best in airports around the world for layovers.
15. Keflavík International Airport, Iceland
This airport is modern, compact and recently went through a renovation that makes it easier to navigate and has added many shops and dining options that please passengers who are stuck here. Like most places in Iceland the airport offers free WiFi, a welcome amenity to those travelers from many of the US airports that charge. But perhaps the best part about having a layover here is the location. Located just half an hour from the famous Blue Lagoon, passengers on a layover here will have the chance to leave the airport and soak their troubles away in the warm, geothermal waters. Spread across the landscape of black lava mounds, visitors can soak in the 100-degree water for a few hours before returning back via shuttle, taxi or bus. This is one airport you will want to seek out for a long layover and take advantage of this awesome experience.
14. Helsinki International Airport, Finland
Despite this being a relatively small airport, the Helsinki airport offers up plenty of uncrowded space, amenities and a calming presence. It is one of the most relaxing airports on this list and travelers can experience the Finnish culture through the cinema area that features Finish films and large sculptures that adorn the terminal. For avid readers there is a book exchange that features a cozy nook where you can get lost for hours reading and swapping titles. A scenic terrace lets visitors watch the incoming and outgoing planes during the summer months. The best part about this airport may be the free relaxation area that features foldable beds, comfy chairs and plugs for all of your electronics. Plenty of shopping and authentic dining options, as well as the option to leave the airport and tour the city makes this airport an excellent layover destination.
13. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Japan
There is lots to do if you are stuck in the Tokyo airport on a layover and being only 9 miles from the downtown area gives passengers plenty of options. Free WiFi, a barber, hair salon, oxygen bar, health clinic and duty free shops are all scattered throughout the terminals for passenger convenience. Sleeping here on a layover can also be quite pleasant. The seats and benches are comfortable, the lights are dimmed and there are no loud announcements over the speakers. The huge panoramic terrace on the roof offers amazing views of the planes landing and taking off. Lounges can be assessed for as little as $8 US and offer comfortable seats, electrical outlets, refreshments and showers. Many layover passengers enjoy these amenities without having to shell out big bucks.
12. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
This airport may not be the most modern on the list but the rain forest-like feel coupled with free WiFi, plenty of dining options and the friendliness of the Malaysian people makes it one of the best airports to have a layover. The upper level of the airport boasts four different areas where passengers can curl up and watch TV. In the middle of the terminal is a small tropical garden and on the 5th level is an area just for children, complete with activities and slides. If you are looking to leave the airport and experience the city you will need about a six to seven hour layover. The KLIA express train takes you right into the capitol in just thirty minutes. Whether you want to sit and enjoy the tropical feel of the airport with its free WiFi and showers or venture out into the city; this is a great airport to have a layover.
11. San Francisco International Airport, California, USA
It is the only airport located in the United States to make this list and travelers who spend a layover here will be pleasantly surprised by the amenities offered throughout. Standard amenities range from free WiFi, rapid charging stations, XpressSpas offering massages, facials, manicures/pedicures, etc and art exhibits spread throughout. The Aviation Museum and Library is open to the public and free admission makes this a great place to kill some time. For those with little ones, hanging out at the airport has never been easier with different kids play areas and a scavenger hunt with prizes. Free yoga rooms, relaxation rooms and hydration stations are offered throughout. Eating and drinking at the airport is truly a culinary experience with an emphasis on locally crafted food, beer and wine. If you do want to leave the airport during your layover, the city center is a quick 25 minute ride away on the train.
10. Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan
For those passengers who face a layover at the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport, there is an abundance of free activities and entertaining things to do while you wait, beginning with free hot showers. Large couches and comfortable seating areas allow for passengers to relax and even catch a sleep while they wait for their next flight. Exploring the terminals is a great way to pass the time here as this airport offers 30 plus themed lounges ranging from Hello Kitty to a sports themed lounge. Cultural art galleries are scattered throughout as well as numerous kids’ areas that feature gaming stations. The free library offers books, tablets, computers and e-books, as well as mobile charging stations and comfortable seating. There are free massage chairs, numerous prayer rooms and cloud-based reading areas where comfortable chairs and computers are provided. One thing for sure, you won’t need a reason to leave this airport on your layover.
9. Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, Canada
This International airport is home to First Nations art, 5,000 marine animals and a nature inspired creek that runs through it; amongst many more things. If you are going to have a layover in Canada, this would be the place to do it. One of the most impressive ways to spend time in this airport is to head to the international terminal where an 114,000 liter aquarium sits as a permanent exhibit. A jellyfish aquarium also sits up on the fourth floor. There is no shortage of comfortable seating at this airport, rows of chairs complete with headrests and footrests are at each gate as well as removable cushioned chairs with no armrests, letting passengers create mini sleeping areas. Mini TV watching stations are available, complete with three different channels, comfortable theater style chairs and a kid’s play area nearby. Although the city is just a short train trip away, you may find yourself wanting to stay here and explore this awesome airport.
8. London Heathrow
It’s one of the busiest airports in the world and provides a ton of dining, shopping and entertainment venues to keep passengers occupied during a layover. It’s one of the only airports in the world that offers personal shoppers to the passengers to help pick out gifts, travel wardrobes, etc. Shoppers will delight in duty free stores and high end retail like Burberry. There’s also something for foodies who will delight in over 100 restaurants throughout the terminals. Passengers can wander through the cultural exhibition showcasing British sculptors, painters, and photographers. Sleeping isn’t great at this airport as it is busy, but there is so many nooks and crannies to discover throughout the huge terminals so patience in finding a place to snooze is a must. If you feel like leaving the airport, the city is only about 15 miles away and can easily be accessed through underground, train or taxi.
7. Dubai International Airport, Dubai
Like everything else in Dubai, this airport is over the top, extravagant and truly unforgettable. This is one airport where having a layover is actually an incredible experience. Shopaholics will go crazy for the world’s largest duty-free shop at 58,000 square feet and other high-end shops. Passengers can walk through open-air gardens complete with mist machines or choose to use the G-Force gym; open 24/7, with a pool and showers. The immaculate inside of the airport offers such things as shopping stands where you can purchase actual gold bars. If you are looking to sleep, the Dubai airport offers Snoozecubes; soundproof units with a bed, touch screen TV and music for a minimal price available by the hour. This airport is expanding at a rapid rate and expects to be able to handle 90 million passengers by 2018, which means even more amazing amenities coming here.
6. Munich International Airport, Germany
You won’t have any problems finding a beer in this airport, which is often the perfect way to pass some time during a layover. Everyone heads to Airbräu, a Bavarian-style tavern complete with its own beer garden, live music and on-site brewery, where beer enthusiasts can watch the brewmaster in action. Passengers will find free showers, a beautiful courtyard that connects the terminals and plenty of relaxation centers with reclining seats and electrical outlets. The visitor’s park is truly an amazing feature of this airport and offers free showings of aviation movies, mini-golf, a viewing platform and historical aircrafts. Passengers on a layover should head to terminal two which features ultra-modern touches such as nap pods complete with iPhone and USB ports. There is free coffee, tea and hot chocolate throughout, a skating rink in the winter months and access to free WiFi makes Munich the perfect layover airport.
5. Zurich Airport, Switzerland
An extensive renovation to this airport back in 2011 improved this already well-liked airport with the likes of two rooftop terraces with observation points and an awesome kids area complete with a mini-plane and tower to explore. There are plenty of ways to rest and freshen up in this airport. Free showers are available along with plenty of communal rest areas with comfy reclining chairs. If you are looking for a little more privacy, simple furnished rooms are available to rent that come complete with beds, TV and an individual wash basin. Plenty of duty-free shops and restaurants line this airport, including ones with the famous Swiss chocolate. For those looking to get a little exercise between flights, in-line skates and bikes are available to rent right from the airport.
4. Amsterdam Schiphol, The Netherlands
This one terminal airport has been in the same location for 100 years and pleasing passengers from the get go. The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Museum is housed here and offers free admission, letting passengers take in the permanent and temporary art exhibits by Dutch artists. The world’s first airport library also provides a great way for passengers to pass the time and offers e-books and print books in 29 different languages. Having a layover here means access to over 75 shops and many dining options such as the Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar where you can dine around a saltwater aquarium with a glass of champagne and fresh seafood. For those travelers looking to relax there is free WiFi, numerous spas and showers. Massage chairs, casinos and numerous lounges round out this airport experience.
3. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
This futuristic airport offers endless entertainment for passengers stuck on layovers here. The endless charging stations, business centers and beautiful lounges will suit the business travelers, but the guests who really benefit from having a layover here are those looking to have some fun between flights. The outdoor nine-hole golf course is open 24/7 to passengers looking to squeeze in a round or two. The world’s first airport IMAX Theater shows both 2D and 3D films and sports lover can head up to the iSports simulator for car racing, basketball and soccer. High end shops and Michelin star restaurants are located throughout the airport. The Aviation Discovery Centre which tracks aviation history in Hong Kong through themed exhibits and attractions including the SkyDeck, and Cockpit Simulator keep passengers occupied throughout flight times.
2. Incheon International Airport, South Korea
This airport is a favorite among travelers, especially among the ones who get stuck here for a few hours. There are a ton of free amenities that will make weary travelers happy including WiFi, use of laptops and free showers. More importantly though this airport offers lots of fun for layover passengers including two movie theaters playing Korean and Hollywood Hits, an ice skating rink and an 18-hole putting course. The culture center offers experiences such as learning traditional Korean paper handicraft and taking in harp performances. There are seven gardens throughout the airport that are perfect for the ultimate relaxation, or hit up the spa and sauna. If passengers want to leave the airport there are many tours that leave directly from it and take visitors to temples, historic sites and newer attractions. Did we mention that this airport offers over 90 different duty free shops and looks more like a sparkling clean mall, rather than an airport?
1. Changi International Airport, Singapore
This airport is truly the best in the world and there is nowhere else in the world that you should want to have a layover than here. The Changi Airport in Singapore has won over 400 awards and continues to add to its impressive list of features. For passengers who are stuck here on a layover, there are hundreds of things to discover. Take a walk through one of five gardens, including the live butterfly garden boasting more than a 1000 butterflies. Take a ride down the 40-foot swirling slide, refresh in the rooftop Balinese-themed swimming or catch a free flick at the movie theater. Entertainment areas featuring Xbox, Playstations and other electronics are scattered throughout as well as art sculptures and waterfalls. Business travelers will be happy with the 200 iPad-wielding agents, hundreds of free Internet terminals, plus airport-wide free WiFi and hundreds of USB ports and power sockets.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of and most populous city in Malaysia was established in 1859 and has a population over 1.6 million. The history of the city is surrounded by tin, that being tin prospectors opened some mines which later developed the area into a trading post of sorts. The tin production was battled over by rival gangs in this city that is still known for international business today. While Malaysia suffered a lot from a public relations standpoint in terms of the recent commercial airplane disasters, Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding area continue to be the most industrialized, as well as the fastest growing economic region of Malaysia. With an annual growth rate of 5.9%, Kuala Lumpur is still growing rapidly as the center for finance, insurance, real estate and media arts in the country. The culture is rich and the skyline is fancy, and the wealth of infrastructure ensures there is plenty to see and do in this financial hub.
10. Kuala Lumpur Convention Center
The convention center is a stunning, state-of-the-art business center providing all visitors with first class service and amenities not to be matched anywhere else, with the Plenary Hall being the center’s “signature masterpiece”. For opening ceremonies or keynote speakers the two-level hall holds up to 3,000 attendees. Along with exhibition halls, conference halls, banquet halls and the theater, each and every room at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center includes bright lights and excellent architecture. The Grand Ballroom is most elegant and sophisticated, with nine-meter ceilings, portable stages and the ability to separate the room in two which can accommodate 2,000 guests. The state of the art facility is perfect for business opportunities clearly, but is also a world-class tourist destination with outstanding food. A unique philosophy means the staff accommodate virtually anything the guest can come up with. From caviar to lobster to coffee, any request is welcome to make this visit an unforgettable one.
9. Suria KLCC Mall
In front of the convention center and the Petronas Towers is the KLCC Mall known widely for the marvelous food courts. The bright displays and tall, circular architecture make this a cultural landmark as tourists shop and stop for photo opportunities in front of the towers, the wondrous outdoor fountain, and the other surrounding landmarks. Designer stores in this, the city’s largest mall make it a key stop for the avid shopper. However, as mentioned it is the food courts that garner the most praise from visitors for its variety and charm. Restaurants are scattered throughout the five floors, and the mall also features a stunning aquarium. A great visit during the day (or at night to capitalize on the illuminated water fountain), this mall offers some retail therapy after the blinding lights of Malaysian nightlife have taken their toll on tourists. Travel by taxi is not suggested due to high rates; instead look for green buses that run free of charge.
8. Menara Tower
Menara Tower is the world’s seventh tallest communications tower. Although it is not as recognizable of the Petronas Towers, it actually offers an observation deck that is a full 100 meters higher than that of the Petronas’ Skybridge, at 276 meters. The tower was built over several phases from 1992 to 1996, standing at 421 meters tall with a 25 km observational range. The deck is open the entire year and overlooks several other attractions including One Malayasia Cultural Village and the race car driving simulator. A wedding ceremony in the sky is one of the coolest opportunities at the Menara Tower, as afterwards several venues below are available for the reception. The Village, Pavilion, Gallery and Halaman are all available for rent with each offering a unique unforgettable experience. Whether for a quick visit to the top or a romantic getaway, the Menara shouldn’t be overlooked as a must-see destination.
7. Royal Selangor Visitor Center
Since 1885 the Royal Selangor is the leading name in pewter across the world, known for its superior design and craftsmanship. The 100+ year history is intertwined with Malaysia since the induction of pewter production which lead to an expansion into gold and sterling silver. Located just 20 minutes outside the city, the center is the winner of the Malaysian Tourism Best Tourist Attraction Award 2004 because of the connection to the national identity and heritage of the country. Other organizations have given praise to this 40,000 square foot center in the form of awards. The giant beer stein out front is the backdrop (along with lush greenery) for many photo ops with national and international dignitaries over the years. Open 9-5 daily, no appointment or fees are necessary. Simply enter, and enjoy the history it has to offer. Don’t speak the native tongue? Guides are available in English, Malay, Mandarin and Japanese.
6. Bukit Bintang Walkway
This walkway also known as the Pavillion-KLCC pedestrian bridge spans 1.172 km connecting the Pavilion KL to Impania KLCC Hotel and the convention center. Along the bridge there is a dining and entertainment strip as users pass by other busy areas in addition to the monorail station. This is indeed a safe method of travel on foot between tourist destinations (including the Petronas Towers) and major retail locations. Opened in January 2012 by the Malaysian Prime Minister, it was funded by oil moguls with the intention of being a safe and comfortable alternative to the highly congested and traffic-laden streets. It still offers great views of the city’s architecture while protecting users from the elements with air conditioning added into the mix. If for no other reason than to see it, the Bukit Bintang Walkway makes getting to multiple destinations convenient without the probability of wandering into traffic or pushing through a crowd.
5. Pavilion Mall
This fresh and modern mall is said to be the most complete and enjoyable based on its size and location. Many shoppers relish the escape from the chaotic streets that surround it, as it offers a sense organization and cleanliness that can get lost in the very populous city. Malaysians love their food, and again this mall’s food court is beloved by many for its low-cost, yet enjoyable options. It is of course air-conditioned (appreciated in these parts) but the organization of shops, food and exhibits is noted. It is also important to note that the Pavilion Mall is kept very neat and tidy compared to others, and it is also easy to access. A fountain out front along with gorgeous displays of flowers and lanterns inside provide a sense of elegant culture that seems to capture exactly what shoppers are hoping to get once they step inside.
4. Batu Caves
The Batu Caves are impressive landmarks made of limestone, originally used for Hindu festivals and pilgrimages. Widely noted as a cheaper alternative tourist destination the caves certainly are a bang for your buck. While fun and adorable, the top portions are full of some sneaky monkeys that many visitors note will “snatch away any edible or drinkable” products you may have in your hand. Many tourists photograph the monkeys more than they do the caves themselves. The natural cave is a beautiful sight on its own, but the backdrop of a modern city makes for an interesting comparison. Dress simply and comfortably for this spot, as unlike most of the other Malay tourist destinations these caves do not offer refuge from the heat in the form of air conditioning. The statues are plentiful and dark cave tours are offered, but those monkeys are clever, so hold onto your belongings even when in the dark.
3. Walking Food Tour
A walking tour of what Malaysian cuisine has to offer is an unforgettable experience, high on the list of many tourists from across the globe. The idea is to give an insider look of the city while testing and tasting along the way. Finding the right tour guide is key, as their connections and knowledge of the culture are sure to affect the outcome and lasting impression this trip has. Local food markets, small Malay villages, and Sikh temples are just some of the places to stop by and eat that may never be discovered simply by walking around as a tourist. At the request of the traveler, some tour guides can take one through a vegetarian-only walking tour if necessary, as Kuala Lumpur has such a versatile food scene. Tourists are sure to be solicited, but it is a small price to pay for getting to see everything from a different, and in most cases ‘insider’ perspective.
2. Kuala Lumpur Bird Park
The 20.9 acre park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country making its stop at number two on our list. With over 200,000 annual visitors, the park is home to over 3,000 birds spanning across 200 species. Located next to the Lake Gardens the park’s surrounding scenery is particularly breathtaking to experience while bird watching or simply exploring the grounds. Divided into four sections, in zones 1, 2 and 3 the birds are allowed to roam free as this area mimics their natural habitat. The free flight is the main concept of the park and is what makes it stand out from any other bird sanctuary you may have been to. Because of this, many of the species even feel at home enough in all of the foliage to create natural breeding or nesting grounds. The experience is akin to that of a tropical rainforest, and the sense of continued conservation of the surrounding species only makes the experience that more enjoyable.
1. Petronas Towers
By now, these famous towers have been mentioned a few times and it is no surprise these wonders are number one on the list. Illuminating at night, no trip to Kuala Lumpur is complete without a visit to the Petronas Towers. Purchase tickets in advance to avoid disappointment as access is on a first come, first serve basis only from Tuesday to Sunday. At 451.9 meters the 88-storey twin structure is the focal point of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline and the city’s most prized piece of architecture. The towers include of course the Skybridge; the world’s highest double-decker bridge. The bridge links the towers at levels 41 and 42, facilitates movement, and also acts as an emergency escape route from either tower. In addition, the observation deck provides a perspective unavailable elsewhere, looking down on the city from 360 meters above. The proverbial must-see of a Malaysian trip, the Petronas Towers are right up there with other notable tourist towers like the CN Tower, the Empire State building and the Dubai towers.