As the world progresses, it has become increasingly easier to travel around the world and build a new life in a new country. It is still a huge change that can be at times, very scary! You want to make sure that where you move is safe and offers great amenities throughout the country. To make your life easier, we’ve compiled a list of locations that are great places to settle your family in for an adventure of a lifetime, with as many perks as possible.
Norway is an amazing place to settle in for a few years with the average expat salary landing at a solid $97,486. The best part is that the importance of having a good work/life balance is a huge priority so you won’t be spending hours and hours at the office.
Sweden is an amazing option for expats because of their excellent work environments. 71% of expats say the Swedish work environment is better than what they have experienced in their previous countries.
Are you ready to make an amazing income and still have time for family? The average expat salary is a whopping $188,275 which is almost twice the global average. With a fantastic work environment and welcoming locals, how could this be a bad idea?
You always arrive thinking you’re just there for a season…and then ten years later you realize you’ll never leave. Surrounded with the ocean and quaint old towns, the fresh air will fill your lungs with that sense that you’ve finally made it home. It also helps that their first language is English so there won’t be any language barriers – just accent barriers!
It has perfect weather. That should be enough to get you to move already but not only is there good weather, but there’s low taxes. And not only is there low taxes, but there’s great health care and a low cost of living. It’s amazing!
If you are looking for a breathtaking location to learn about a new way of life, while eating incredible food made by even more incredible people, Italy is for you! Live here to get cultured and expand your horizons about what you know about the world.
Filled with blue skies and aquamarine waters, Finland invites you in with their affordable schooling and high quality healthcare. The general population also has a very high level of overall well being.
Not to be biased here, but with everything that’s happening in the world, I’ve never been more thankful to live in Canada. Not only is it safe and welcoming, but we celebrate diversity and are generally environmentally conscious. If these attributes of Canada appeal to you, moving here will not be a mistake!
With a beautiful set of cities, the Netherlands invites you to cycle through these cities as a primary mode of transportation. Many English speakers live here, so you will always have someone around to help you translate Dutch if you need some help.
France is a classic place to move to if you are looking for a change because of it’s timeless beauty and fame around the world for romance. With an average of a 35 hour work week and a 90 minute lunch break, you have yourself a well balanced lifestyle. Oh ya, and there’s also wine at every meal.
Retirement is an exciting time of wrapping up your many years of service to society and starting a new adventure in life using all the knowledge and wisdom you’ve acquired over the years. Then comes the question of where to live – where you have your whole adult life? Or moving to an incredibly beautiful, new location? Well, it’s not like I’m biased or anything, but I feel like your biggest adventure can start with where you live. Check out these places you may not have considered moving to.
1. Pau, France
A well-loved area of France, Pau is also known as the Garden City, filled with woodlands, friendly locals and a lively college student community. It is also in Wine Country and has the ancient town Gaves De Bearn within.
2. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of those places that is easy to navigate in and is filled with beauty around every corner. It is Spain’s second largest city and will keep your mind stimulated with all it’s historic landmarks.
3. Gozo, Malta
Why wouldn’t you want to live here? Oh my goodness it’s stunning. Retire to Gozo, Malta which is filled with sunshine and the ocean. Welcoming locals will want to involve you in their Karnival traditions and you will never run out of places to explore by foot and by boat.
4. Cascais, Portugal
This small town is filled with incredible architecture and breathtaking views. Looking out onto peaceful waters, this little community is filled with incredible restaurants and stunning designer boutiques.
5. Canton of Valais, Switzerland
Home to the world renowned mountain Matterhorn, this incredible location will not disappoint. Visit the Ice Palace nearby or after hitting the slopes, take a weekly trip to the closest thermal spa. This little spot will hold a special place in your heart once you settle in for your retirement years.
6. Abruzzo, Italy
Instead of a city, this region of Italy is absolutely stunning and couldn’t be reduced to just one city. With fantastic house prices and welcoming locals, this area of Italy is well loved by locals and expats alike.
7. Paris, France
When you’re surrounded with culture, you can only become a better person. Paris is one of those places where you will always keep learning and experiencing new things while travelling through the city for only 1.90 Euros for public transit. With movies, museums, local grocers and bakers nearby, you’ll always get the best of everything. Talk about a luxurious retirement!
8. Halkidiki, Greece
A gorgeous location with reasonable home prices is the perfect recipe for a successful retirement. Who would’ve thought that you could afford a dream location like this?
9. Algarve, Portugal
Stunning, isn’t it? With affordable real estate, sunny weather and sandy beaches, I don’t see why you wouldn’t just retire tomorrow and move here as soon as humanly possible!
10. Dusseldorf, Germany
Dusseldorf is a city filled with culture and overall joy. Listed as the city with the second best quality of life, retirees will find a vibrant city culture in their new home. The city also is a hub of finance, fashion and the arts, so there is always much to see and do any day of the week.
11. Gdansk, Poland
Listed as one of the happiest places to live, Gdansk will light up your life with it’s strong community. Gdansk is also known as the City of Freedom for playing a vital role in the collapse of communism.
12. Bruck an der Mur, Austria
This tiny town is clearly under rated. With mouth watering good food, historical monuments tucked away for you to discover, and good health care, what else can you ask for?
13. Munich, Germany
Discover the historic and photogenic city of Munich! It is considered the most liveable city by the Mercer Quality of Life Index and has the best healthcare in Germany. You can sleep easy knowing that you will be well cared for in this diverse city.
14. Dorset, England
This quaint little county has views that will make you stop in your tracks to fully take in the beauty in front of you. Dorset attracts retirees so many friendly neighbours await, and there is a high level of health for the 65+ age group.
15. Bergen, Norway
Did you know that Norway is the world’s happiest country? Bergen is Norway’s second largest city, but has the feel of a small town. Located near dramatic waterfalls, breathtaking Fjords, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is no shortage of beauty here.
Technically we are all in places that are about to change drastically. There are many remote idyllic, places being threatened by climate change that face melting glaciers or catastrophic flooding. But then so does Miami. Whether it’s rising sea levels, desertification, torrential monsoons, melting glaciers or ocean acidification, climate change is rapidly altering the landscape of our planet and perhaps about to destroy some of the world’s legendary vacation spots. Then there is the traditional destruction inflicted by human error and downright imbecility. More hotel rooms, spas and golf courses are part of the inherent contradictions of tourism increasing accessibility means increasing degradation. There seems to be no solution to that equation. We will be one of the last generations to see some of the Earth’s most cherished places. Here’s our list of 20 places to see before they vanish to climate change, over development and encroachment. It’s a survey of various sources from CNN to MNN (as in Mother Nature Network), at the same time being quite conscious of the other contradiction that advising more people to visit already vulnerable sites is farther contributing to the degradation. Perhaps you can solve that moral quandary by designing am environmentally sensitive visit. Or contribute to conservancy groups that are fighting to save them.
20. Gozo, Malta
CNN has this theory that once a foreign city is featured in a blockbuster movie, it takes a hit from an influx of curious tourists. Gozo, population 37,000 is a short ferry ride from Malta. Its website proudly proclaims its natural beauty, its “tortoise-like pace” and amazing history. Gozo means ‘joy’ in Castilian, so named at its founding in 1282. Last year Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt shot their latest film “By the Sea” there. Directed by Jolie, it appears to be a drama about an artistic couple’s fading marriage with Gozo subbing for France. CNN warns that “There are few better advertisements for a destination than a good movie,” and expects hordes of Brangelina fans to disturb the tranquility in search of the places the couple tried to rekindle their romance.
19. St. Kitts
With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is passing under the spell of the Evil Trinity of tourism; Big name hotel chains, golf course designers and marina builders. It is being done in the name of sustainability which may be easier to do environmentally that in preserving the spirit of a place heading to over development. When they open the world’s first edible golf course, you know the gimmicks have just begun.
18. The Seychelles
National Geographic rates the beach at Anse Source d’Argent as the best in the world. One of nature’s most convincing versions of paradise. The beauty of the pink sand, the coral reef sheltered by massive granite boulders brings many beach lovers to this archipelago of more than a hundred islands in the Indian Ocean but the water rises relentlessly, the perfect beaches are eroding and its coral reef, like others around the world is being degraded. Barring some miraculous engineering innovation or divine intervention, many of the islands could be lost in the next 50 years.
17. The Athabasca Glacier, Canada
With its relatively convenient location in mid-Alberta between Banff and Jasper National Parks, The Athabasca Glacier attracts more tourists than any other on the continent. It is also the largest ice field between the poles. It’s a kind of frozen tributary of the massive Columbia Ice Fields. But with ice fields north of 90, as old hands call the Arctic, the Athabasca at 52 degrees north latitude is in for The Big Melt. Parks Canada estimates it’s receding up to ten feet a year. At this rate maybe too far gone for the next generation to experience.
16. St. Helena
In its own way, St. Helena is an exotic destination. A volcanic speck of 50 square miles in the middle of the south Atlantic, it is the definition of remote, 4,000 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. Let’s face it, after Waterloo, the British were not about to exile Napoleon in Paradise. Part of its cache is that getting there is a challenge, by the Royal Mail ship St. Helena from Cape Town, Walvis Bay or Ascension Island. It’s somewhat for bird watching and its rugged terrain protects well preserved Georgian buildings. After Longwood, Napoleon’s home after 1815 (now a museum), the island’s biggest celebrity draw is Jonathon the tortoise, age 180 and going strong. The British have sunk the better part of half a billion dollars into an airport for the tiny island to open early in 2016. For that chunk of change, expect more than the usual 3,000 or so visitors soon.
15. Taj Mahal, India
Even the great frescoes of the Sistine Chapel dulled with age and the emission from centuries of candle smoke and neglect. But they were inside the walls of a building in the First World, whereas the Taj Mahal is neither. The whole point of the spectacular tribute to an Emperor’s late wife, is its pristine whiteness indicative of the purity of their love. But the air quality in India’s major cities is worse than the horrific pollution levels of Beijing. Fading to yellow or rust is not just a cosmetic downgrade it degrades its very meaning. An ornate mausoleum of white marble, The Taj Mahal is the sparkling jewel of Muslim art in India. Built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, The Taj currently has more than 3 million visitors a year and the heat, foot traffic and toxic air are beginning to undermine the building’s structural integrity. It’s not hard to see a lengthy shutdown for restoration in the near future, not to mention banning people from going inside.
14. Dead Sea
There is the old joke that someone says he’s so old he remembers when the Dead Sea was only sick. Sadly that’s no longer just a joke. It is being sucked dry by the water-desperate countries around it who are helping themselves to the water in the River Jordan, the sea’s main source. It has shrunk by a third in size and scientists fear if the rate of attrition continues, the intensely salted water some claim has medicinal qualities, has maybe 50 years of life left.
13. The Galapagos Islands
Truth be told Europeans have been abusing the Galapagos since the late 19th century when pirates used it as a base to launch their raids. Darwin didn’t arrive until 1835 to begin on what would become The Origin of the Species 25 years later. Now there are pages of tours echoing the name of his ship The Beagle. The islands are threatened by too many people. Too many insensitive people acting reprehensibly to degrade this natural treasure to take the greatest selfies and poach plants and animals (not necessarily at the same time.) The prognosis is much better than many other sites however because the ecosystem, while delicate, can still be saved by limiting if not stopping altogether, the onslaught of tourists. So if it’s on your bucket list…tread lightly.
12. Glacier National Park Montana
In fact, anything with the word “Glacier’ in its name or title may be at risk, barring some miraculous reversal in climate change, the effects are well documented. They are living on borrowed time, the more temperate the climate the more critical the patient. The number of glaciers in the stunningly beautiful Glacier National Park on the Montana-Canada border has shrunk by 75% in the last century. Pessimistic estimates say the glaciers and the ecosystem that depends on them could be gone by 2030. The good news if you’re into dark humor; the surfing in Montana is about to improve dramatically.
11. South Australia
One of those areas facing the climate change double whammy, coastal flooding and interior desertification the Australian government has studied and published many daunting studies on the effects. Rising sea levels will threaten hundreds of miles of beaches and the lovely city of Adelaide will be put at risk. The soaring temperatures and absence of rain in the interior will challenge some of the most renowned wine growing regions in the world, including the Barossa and Clare Valleys. While the region accounts for only 7% of Australia’s population, it is also responsible for half of the $1.3 billion in wine exports. Unless you are entertained somehow by catastrophic flooding and drought, best to go soon.
10. Greek Islands
There are 6,000 islands from Aegina to Zaforas in the Ionian and Aegean seas off the Greek coast. Only 227 are inhabited and only 50 have airports. Traveling between them has always been a question of taking leisurely ferries with shall we say occasionally regular schedules. Until now after a Greek airline has announced to connect another 100 by seaplane. As always accessibility is a mixed blessing. The islands of Crete, Skyros and Pelion are first on the list with more to come as early as year’s end. Book accordingly. Unless you like crowded beaches, then this is your lucky year.
9. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
The famous falls are twice the height of Niagara with a fraction of the tourists. At least until the new Victoria Falls International Airport, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia, border opens in the fall of 2015. It’s being built to handle what pilots call “Heavy Metal”, wide body A340’s and Boeing 777’s and their human cargo. It will be a huge boost for the tourism sector in the long-suffering country. The five regional airlines that used the old airport will be joined by British British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and Kenya Airways, just to start.
8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean
An idyllic place. Everything you wish for in a Caribbean destination. And less, without the crowds, partiers and such. Beaches rank among the best in the world, coral reefs provide diving that’s to die for, it’s care free relaxation in a setting almost too beautiful to be true. But it’s always been a bit of a schlep to get there by connecting flight. The new $250,000,000 Argyle International Airport , will come with direct flights to North American and European cities increasing capacity by at least 400%. Plus it is upgrading its port infrastructure to bring in more cruise ships whose environmental record has been somewhere between bad and wretched. The good news for would-be visitors is that the airport is behind schedule for those who would like to have the island experience before it gets paved and up go the condos.
Lake Nicaragua is a scenic, unspoiled place with coastal towns lost to time and lots of fishing spots locals love. It has been fast-tracked to the environmental critical list by a crazy ambitious $50 billion Chinese-backed project to build a canal three times the length of the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea and hence the Atlantic, in the process trampling through prized lakes, wetlands, coral reefs and any number of delicate ecosystems in Central America and the Caribbean. The Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences warns “this canal would create an environmental disaster in Nicaragua and beyond. Tourist visits have soared since the construction started.
6. Papua New Guinea
There is an automatic exoticism to the south Pacific and in the case of Papua New Guinea, it’s enhanced by its status as one of the last truly unexplored places on earth. The government has expressed a “wish” to maintain the rarely seen villages as the basis for its society. It’s a nice gesture, but at the same time they’re expanding the almost non-existent tourism infrastructure starting with cruise ships and with them a fading chance to experience a land not far removed from first contact.
5. The Alps, Europe
The mighty Alps are facing an uphill battle they can’t win. The evidence is incremental but unmistakable. The temperature, even on peaks over 10,000 feet has been steadily rising. The elevation at which snow falls and accumulates is falling. Towns and cities dependent on skiing for their livelihoods are taking strong measures to lower local CO2 emissions, but climate change scientists say the effects of climate change could hit hard by 2040. So maybe the problem will be solved by then, it still leaves you at least 25 years to book, but after that forget the skies and take hiking boots and sunblock.
4. Venice, Italy
Like the famous writer Mark Twain, reports of the death of Venice have been greatly exaggerated. The magical kingdom of canals and Renaissance masterpieces has been written off many times before. But the severe flooding it has long suffered has become deeper and more chronic. When you can stop on your way to St. Mark’s and, bend down and catch fish with your bare hands, the fat lady may not be singing but is definitely warming up. The prognosis: the only people to see Venice past the 22nd century are likely scuba divers and snorkelers. However, the city has miraculously hung tough before. It may not be clear just how just yet, but surely no expense will be spared to save one of the greatest treasures on the planet.
3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Another long running natural disaster that could have been easily mitigated by sustainable practices. The fabulous reef has been assaulted not only by climate change but by human stupidity. Higher water temperatures and its older foes of pollution and acidification from ever rising carbon dioxide emissions are killing off the corals at an alarming rate. More recent threats are damage caused by the development of Australian ports to export coal to China, thereby contributing to more CO2, hence more damage to the reef and its $4 billion in tourist income. A whole new enemy has emerged as well in industrial overfishing which doesn’t directly damage reefs around the world, but destroys the fish stocks that are part of its ecosystem. The wonderful reef in Belize is facing the same threat of death by coral bleaching.
Oh the irony. According to CNN, the son of Che Guevara, the iconic Marxist guerrilla leader, has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, launching a motorcycle tour company for the biking crowd to see the island from behind their choppers. With the easing of American travel restrictions, the fabric of the island is in for rapid change for the less impoverished though not necessarily better. Not to revel in other’s poverty but the anachronism of the island frozen in a time warp by antiquated Communist central planning was part of the charm, like the famous 1950’s vintage vehicles constantly repaired and rebuilt out of economic necessity. The wonderful beaches are already popular and if there are bikers, the massive cruise ships won’t be far behind. Hemingway’s Havana is already on borrowed time.
Expect to see more headlines like this one from the BBC: “Should tourists be banned from Antarctica?” It’s feared that Antarctica is shedding up to 160 billion tons of ice annually and rising. The biggest threat to the ice cap is warming temperatures, not humans. Less than 40,000 people visit every year and only a quarter of them actually go ashore. Tour companies abide by strict international guidelines to limit human impact but those guidelines are voluntary. That human impact may be minimal, but any additional pressure on an increasingly vulnerable ecosystem is critical. There will be many more calls for restrictions to follow the BBC’s warnings. It won’t disappear in a century but trips to see it may be extinct long before.
The upwards trend in European tourism shows a definitive increase in Western European tourism—the less visited half of the continent. Throughout the west, particularly the UK, France, Germany, and Spain, there have been more visitors over the last five years than ever before. It’s no wonder really, with the many amazing historical towns and villages, ancient castles, palaces, and forts, thriving backcountry, natural wonders, and so many other attractions. From Scotland’s islands to Portugal’s architecture and Italy’s renowned Riviera, Western Europe is rich with things to do and see.
11. Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region is calculated by magnificent mountains, endless outdoor pursuits, and some of the most interesting resort towns on this side of Liechtenstein. Just an hour and a half south of Zurich and 45 minutes from Bern, Jungfrau is where intrepid travelers head for enterprising vacations. Area attractions include the Kleine Scheidegg watershed at the Eiger North Face foothills. It offers an out-of-this-world cable ride soaring from Grindelwald-First, spanning more than 2,600 feet to Schynige Platte, an area reached by 19th century cog wheel train from Interlaken, the starting point for hiking along the mountain pass. This isn’t a destination for idleness, or even half-hearted exploration. Jungfrau demands a lot from visitors who can move at a relatively quick pace—it’s not a place to stay still. It begs to be explored with enthusiasm and key attractions require some ambition, but it all pays off in spades.
10. Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
The ebony-hued, interlocking basalt columns spanning the Causeway Coast in Ireland gave credence to legendary tales of a centuries-old route trekked by giants between Scotland and Ireland. Though the tales still run rampant between Irish generations, we can all acknowledge it’s one intensely cool natural marvel. More than 40,000 columns are located in this rich, seafront Northern Irish area which most agree was caused by a volcanic eruption centuries ago. Arriving to the coast is pretty exciting in itself, with a long, curving drive along the highway dotted with residential homes, shops, pubs, and striking natural sights—if you can take your eyes off the water and the road ahead. The vivid drives, cozy, small-town feel, extra friendly locals, and incredible hikes along the extensive cliff-top paths are endearing traits that make this area of Northern Ireland one-of-a-kind.
9. Cordoba, Spain
Travel styles vary from person to person but most get on board with marveling at architectural wonders, relishing savory food, delving into old bodegas, and enjoying easy tours of interesting places. Cordoba is magnified by Mezquita, an example of seasoned and worldly Islamic culture, and a site overlooking the city’s heart and drawing onlookers into its fabulously embowed interior. Arteries running throughout the Jewish Quarter (Juderia) reach away from the Mosque like central nerves but with finales upon extremely pleasant plazas. The center of town is the heart and soul of Cordoba, and where almost everyone will wander around, whether for a few hours or every day. Restaurants, bars, and shops are the center of social life here, where the strident vibe is magnetic. In fascinating contrast, west of town is Medinat al-Zahra, an Islamic ruin that piques the imagination with its gravity.
8. Bruges, Belgium
The medieval city of Bruges is a nostalgic reminder of Venice with long, narrow canals, awarding it the moniker “Venice of the North.” Exploring is akin to life in a fairytale—not only are the canals lovely but the buildings that compliment waterways are just as sublime, creating a picture-perfect scene you won’t want to step out of. Paint in some cobblestone lanes, historic churches, buzzing market squares, and whitewashed houses and you might never want to venture out of town. This loveliness doesn’t come without a price; the floodgates open for tourists each year—word has been out for some time about the beauty of Bruges. With that in mind, most trek in during daylight hours and leave by sundown. To get your piece of Bruges, stay overnight and you’re privy to the emptiness and beautiful floodlights at dusk, giving an unequivocal air to the area.
7. Sintra, Portugal
Perfectly tucked between the sea and mountains, Sintra is one of Portugal’s most naturally blessed cities and a destination most deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage site designation. Gleaming palaces, alluring gardens, and misty woodlands are each part of the appeal of Sintra, which is historically rich and filled with natural beauty. No wonder the Celts chose Sintra to exalt their god; the Moors constructed a dizzying castle, and the royals of 18th century Portugal luxuriated in its verdant hills and dreamy backdrop. Cultural attractions dot Sintra and the culinary landscape is beyond compare. The number of ancient fortifications and magnificent residences draw tourists in droves during the summer months. It’s worth contending with crowds in the thick of things, but there’s plenty of merit in seeing it outside of peak tourist season too.
6. Porto Santo, Portugal
While most island-lovers head to Portugal’s Madeira Island, there’s a little island northwest of it deserving of a lot of attention. Porto Santo is a small, Portuguese island—an ideal place to get your fill of blue skies, white sand beaches, and crystal water. In simple terms, Porto Santo is a slice of land hugged by 40+ kilometers of sand and flanked by a few resorts and hotels. There aren’t as many beautiful island destinations with so few visitors with such incredible scenery. There’s not too much in the way of attractions, which is music to an island-lovers’ ears. The small town square has some shops and a smattering of bars and restaurants. Along the beach, there are eateries and outdoor areas ideal for meals and cocktails. Otherwise, put your feet up, close your eyes, and prepare to daydream your time away.
5. Marsaxlokk, Malta
Marsaxlokk is a busy trading port established by Phoenicians in 900 BC, when they first arrived on Malta. It’s a tiny dot in the Mediterranean Sea, below Italy’s “boot,” seemingly kicked out into the vast ocean. Fish drives the economy so of course the port is the most important aspect of life where the daily grind is arduous and busy with fishermen supplying the entire island with fresh seafood. Whether you’re a seafood aficionado or just love fresh fish, visit the port when a huge market spills out each week, presenting an incredible variety of fresh food. This seaside town exemplifies a rare side of Malta, devoid of contemporary buildings to deter from its original appeal. The boat designs are said to be based on Phoenician blueprints, adding a captivating charm to their unique look. Stay awhile and enjoy life in the middle of the Mediterranean.
4. Portree, Scotland
Within the Isle of Skye in Scotland is Portree, the biggest island town and a thriving cultural hub and port with a small population. As with any port town, the harbor is the central point of activity, presenting a tight knit network of seafood restaurants and numerous pubs all with incredible waterfront views. The region is wild and unruly and best explored from Portree, a base where unwinding from adventurous excursions is easy and extra pleasant. Portree is near many of the island’s best outdoor attractions including the incredible Quiraing pinnacles, famous Kilt Rock, and northern Trotternish Ridge. Films, theater shows, and concerts are put on at Aros Center while the water plays host to boat cruises, swimming, and fishing. Take in some salty air and bed down at any of the town’s higher end hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, private apartment rentals, or even the nearby campground.
3. Loire Valley, France
Historical tales of the Loire Valley in France paint a picture of opulence and indulgence. The royals, along with their large courts, used the valley as a stronghold, constructed magnificent fortifications, and built their grand residences throughout the wide, outstretched valley that today is strewn with some of the most impressive and lavish fortresses and castles in the country. Loire Valley is ripe with rural, dramatic, and architectural wealth. Skyscraping turrets, lush vineyards, and time-honored towns are all a part of a massive UNESCO World Heritage Site exemplifying 10 centuries of France’s history throughout a storybook landscape. If you’re looking for the finest example of history and architecture in the Loire Valley, look no farther than the mammoth and beautiful Chateau de Chambord, the valley’s most distinct attraction. The best modern highlights, besides award-winning wines, are the historical landmarks left behind by centuries of hedonistic aristocracies.
2. Ronda, Spain
Within the Malaga region and set inside a tapering gorge is Ronda, once inhabited by some of history’s greatest people; the Arabs, Celts, Romans, and Phoenicians were taken with Ronda, pioneering the region with progressive philosophies and architecture. The historic district exemplifies the age of Arabs, with a fascinating medieval design dotting the southern reaches of Guadalevin river. More contemporary Ronda rose to its peak during the 16th century. The city is sprawled across Guadelevin’s north point, joined to the south by several magnificent bridges. Ronda will make you feel small (everything seems to vault skyward) but this Andalusian city is also empowering, a reminder of humankind’s powerful capabilities. Revel in incredible panoramas of El Tajo gorge from Puente Nuevo, explore maintained Arab bathhouses, and enjoy a meal while exploring Duquesa de Parcent Square, a modern center filled with ancient indications.
1. Manarola, Italy
Across the bay from Monaco is Manarola, Italy, a little seaside town and the stuff of Old World dreams. Set between Nice and Genoa, there’s plenty around to get your fill of city life, but when looking for downtime, and a backdrop of vibrant architecture on the waterfront, Manarola is the place to be. From the water is a resplendent scene: a cluster of tall stone buildings in a rainbow of colors, set high across grassy cliffs and flanked by rugged shoreline. Manarola is part of the Italian Riviera called Cinque Terre where a series of five small coastal towns are connected via rustic hiking trails with ample vistas. Manarola is second in size within the streak of towns, it is also the oldest, and is marked by 14th century San Lorenzo church. Social centers include the town square and the busy little harbor and vineyards dot the entire area.
You might be wondering why you would ever want to visit some of the smallest countries in the world, other than to just get that passport stamp and bragging rights. But the fact of the matter is what these small countries lack in size they make up for in amazing things to see and do. Discover the smallest country in the world that is home to the largest Catholic Church and 5 million visitors a year. Discover a country that is still ruled by a royal family that sit atop a mountain in their castle. Find out why some of the smallest island countries are once in a lifetime opportunities to visit and why most travelers prefer to spend their time on these islands underwater. Tag along as we explore the world’s 10 smallest countries worth visiting.
10. Vatican City
Coming in at .2 square miles this is the smallest country on our list but the most visited with over 5 million people visiting every year. Vatican City is unique that it is a city within a city, a walled enclave within Rome and an internationally recognized independent state. Housing the largest Catholic Church in the world; St. Peter’s Basilica and one of the best collections of artistic masterpieces in the world; this small but mighty country is a must visit. Did we mention that along with the 800 people who live here, the Pope just happens to reside in this tiny country?
Entrance to the Basilica is free and here you will find Peter’s tomb and famous works of art such as Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Vatican museum is overflowing with art and history and is often best seen with a guided tour as it can be quite overwhelming. Here you will also find the Sistine chapel which is famous for the painted ceiling frescoes that depict the story of creation and the story of Noah. There are many hotels and B&B’s located just a short walk from the Vatican City and most visitors pair their visit here with a few days in Rome. A beautiful country with years of history behind it is our first choice for the smallest country worth visiting.
Known as the playground for the rich and famous Monaco is only .7 square miles yet is home to over 32,000 residents! Located along the French Riviera this glitzy and glamorous state is home to yacht owners, superstars and billionaires. Besides the opportunity to visit amongst the wealthiest, there are so many reasons to visit this beautiful tiny country. Among them include great weather, world-famous restaurants and nightclubs, the Grand Prix Formula 1 race, the world’s most famous casino and exclusive shopping.
You will have to reach deep into your pockets to visit this country though, even on the off-season hotel rates are astoundingly high. Hotel de Paris is the oldest and most famous luxury hotel in the country and offers a private beach, thermal spa and a restaurant run by the very famous Alain Ducasse. Visit one of the five casinos, attend a show at the prestigious Opera or simply gaze at the very expensive but very beautiful cars that line the streets. Visitors should head to the Old City which offers cobblestone streets, picturesque cafes and the Prince’s Palace. Whether you can afford to stay a few days in this charming country or simply take a day trip here; it is one small country worth visiting that’s for sure.
Sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria is the world’s sixth smallest country rich in beauty and mountains. Liechtensteinis the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire and is still ruled to this very day by the Liechtenstein family that lives in the castle on the hill. Although this country doesn’t look like more than a dot on the map, there is plenty to see and do here in this laid back relaxing atmosphere.
Visit during the winter for some excellent intermediate skiing on Malbun and return to a place where the hills aren’t overcrowded and only a handful of chalets and hotels grace the hillside. Catch a glimpse of the historical and imposing castle Schloss Vaduz where the royal family if often spotted skiing in and out of. In the summer there are a bountiful number of hiking and cycling trails that offer spectacular views of cliffs, villages and the lush green forests. In fact you can cycle from Switzerland to Austria through this country in just a few short hours. We suggest spending at least a few days here exploring the beauty, friendly locals, vineyards, and village-side mountains.
7. St. Kitts and Nevis
This two island nation in the West Indies makes up 104 square miles but is packed with history, activities, beaches and mountains. This is an island that once survived on the tobacco, indigo and sugar industry but has since made tourism its main source of life. Visitors that travel here often have a yearning to explore, to get off the beaten path and discover the secrets that await them.
Amongst the cruise ships that dock here, the luxury hotels and the private jet terminal are natural reminders of what this island once was. Travel along the scenic railway that was designed to transport sugar cane or head to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park; a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers excellent views as it sits atop a volcanic peak. St. Kitts offers a bustling nightlife, adrenaline pumping activities such as zip lining and is the bigger of the two islands. On the other hand if you want peace and quiet Nevis offers a handful of gorgeous beaches and a quaint capital city. It is easy to see why this small country begs to be explored and can take multiple visits to understand all it has to offer.
A trip to the Maldives is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This country is comprised of 26 coral atolls that contain 200 inhabited islands and 80 islands with tourist resorts. Visiting a resort here means your own private beach only shared with other guests of that resort. From budget guesthouse rooms to over the water bungalows with plasma TV’s to personal butlers this country is perfect for any type of traveler. Islands offer different luxuries but all have one thing in common; the opportunity to discover an amazing underwater world.
The Maldives are for the traveler that wants to discover the underwater life; for the diver or snorkeler who longs to be in the water and is happy to curl up on the beach in between dives. From baby sharks to manta rays to thousands of colorful fish to wrecks to huge coral walls to massive caves, the opportunities are endless as to what you might see in these extremely warm waters. The white sand beaches, crystal blue waters and the choice of accommodations make this country worth every penny it costs to visit.
A global leader in protecting marine ecosystems; Palau or as it’s often known as Belau, is a group of 250 islands in the Micronesia area of Oceania. It is no surprise then that most visitors who come here prefer to spend their time underwater scuba diving. Home to famous sites such as The Blue Corner, German Channel and Blue Holes; a visitor could dive the same spot everyday and each time have a unique experience. Teeming with sharks, giant clams, coral reefs, blue holes, caves, tunnels, unique sea creatures and an abundance of colorful fish this is the ultimate underwater playground. Make sure to snorkel in the sting-less jellyfish lake located in this country for an unforgettable experience.
On land visitors will delight in the exotic birds, breathtaking flora, and diversity of the islands. From the salt water crocodiles that can be found in the mangrove swamps to the rock islands that boast lush green jungle covering jagged limestone to the orchids that sprout everywhere -there is no shortage of beauty to be found. A range of accommodations from budget to luxury along with a number of restaurant choices and even a local brewery makes this country worth visiting.
Known as the Spice Island Grenada is home to exotic plants, flowers and an abundance of spice trees and is a major source of producing nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa. Combine that with the lush green tropical rainforests, towering waterfalls, cascading rivers and breathtaking mountain lakes and you may never want to leave here. Coming in at 133 square miles this is one of the larger small countries on our list that is definitely worth spending your vacation time on.
Visitors will delight in the number of local fairs, festivals and markets that take place and one should head to the fishing village of Gouyave on Fridays for an absolutely authentic local experience complete with fresh seafood, live music and a lot of late night partying. White sand beaches, colorful hillside towns, the first underwater statue museum, rum distillery tours and activities such as river tubing and hiking will all likely be a part of your travels here. From luxury hotels to small guesthouses and plenty of eateries around the island; one should head to this undiscovered country for the ultimate getaway before anyone else finds out about this gem.
The second largest country on our list coming in at 180 square miles is located between France and Spain and is known for having the best skiing in the Pyrenees. For this reason alone any travelers that are looking to hit the slopes should pack their bags immediately and head to Andorra. Over the last few years the ski resorts have invested millions of dollars to ramp up restaurants, chairlifts, gondolas, snow-making machines and anything and everything ski related. What awaits you in this country is some serious ski time.
The country’s capital and only town is loaded with some 2000 shops which attract a number of visitors each year and also contribute to the somewhat bad reputation this country gets as a “fuming traffic jam”. Visitors should head outside the town to discover narrow valleys, breathtaking mountains and villages that dot the countryside. Hikers will be in paradise in the warmer months with plenty of trails ranging from beginner to expert with plenty of guided hikes available as well. Discover a rugged landscape with beautiful architecture surrounding you as you ski or hike some of the greatest mountains located in this small but mighty country.
A small island country located in between Tonga and the Cook Islands, Niue is small in stature but big on adventure. The best way to explore this small country is to have an open mind and let the opportunities come to you. The dense tropical forests cover most of the island with caves and limestone arches making up the remainder and dozens of walking paths allow visitors to explore the untouched beauty. You won’t find any beaches here as the shoreline is steep and rocky with coral reefs to explore instead.
Offering one of the most spectacular and extensive cave systems in the South Pacific, a popular activity is exploring these caves and the swimming pools that are often hidden within them. Swimming with whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and going on an unga (coconut crab) hunt are all reasons why this small country deserves a serious visit. Being able top hike through the rainforest with no fear of poisonous plants or animals is just one of the bonuses in this country. Spend time here and arrive as a visitor and leave as a friend as the local population welcomes you with open arms.
Our last remarkable small country worth visiting is extremely rich in history; not to mention beautiful and friendly. Malta is often described as an open-air museum with its fortresses, temples set on sea cliffs, walled cities and underground tunnels. From the 17th-century capital of Valletta that is built on a plateau and offers superior views of the sea to the underground necropolis; The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum this country is full of surprises. Wind your way through the different townships in the country to discover something new at every turn.
A lot of visitors choose to sail along the coasts as the scenic caves, sunsets and coastline offer stunning views from the water. Malta is also home to numerous note-worthy festivals that draw visitors from all over the world. The beautiful beaches and clear waters provide tranquility and relaxation and many visitors like to try their hand at diving. Underwater divers can catch glimpses of rocky reefs, caves and an abundance of marine life in the warmer months. Malta is truly the perfect country to visit for the historian, explorer or anyone looking to do something different on their travels.
The ever popular publisher of travel guides has come out with their ‘Best of Travel 2015’ guide which lists the best of the best for the next year of travel in all sorts of categories from best budget travel to best family travel experiences. If you’ve been planning ahead for next year’s vacations here is the list of the best cities to visit in 2015 to get your imagination running wild. All cities were reportedly chosen for their “topicality, unique experiences and ‘wow’ factor”.
10. Toronto, Canada
The only Canadian city making this list, Toronto is the shining star of the province of Ontario. It’s a vibrant city and its people aren’t shy about telling you why. The city offers something for everyone with an amazing arts, culture and culinary scene, major sports teams, music, festivals and even history. One of the best things about this city is discovering its many hidden gems.
9. Chennai, India
Chennai, the ‘Gateway to South India’ is often overlooked by tourists for the more obvious major cities like Delhi and Mumbai but Chennai has come up on more than one ‘must visit’ list. Arts and culture play a significant role in the city and it’s actually home to the oldest museum and art gallery in the country. With beaches, temples and history galore, Chennai is the perfect place to experience Indian culture at its finest.
8. Vienna, Austria
Often praised for its beautiful architecture and intriguing culinary scene, Vienna enters this list in 8th place with some exciting events happening in the coming year. The incredibly popular Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Vienna in 2015 and is also celebrating its 60th anniversary, while Vienna’s iconic Ringstraße boulevard also celebrates a milestone 150th anniversary. With so many milestones, 2015 is going to be an exciting time for this European hotspot.
7. Salisbury, U.K.
Somewhat surprisingly, Salisbury is the only city in the U.K. to appear on this list, but we’re not surprised this city got the nod. It’s a place that’s been described as ‘quintessentially English’ and 2015 will be a big celebration with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, house in the iconic Salisbury Cathedral which is a must see in itself. If you’re planning a euro-trip this coming year, make sure Salisbury is more than just a short stop on your way to Stonehenge.
6. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
One of Europe’s hidden gems, Plovdiv is a modern city with old world charm. From the remarkable ruins of the Roman theatre to countless museums and galleries, this city covers history and the arts extensively. It’s also said to have a nightlife scene that rivals the capital city of Sofia. Plovdiv is also set to be the European Capital of Culture for 2019 so over the next few years we’re sure to see this city’s popularity skyrocket.
5. Valletta, Malta
2015 marks the 450th anniversary of the Great Siege of Malta so celebrations of this ancient city’s history will be at the forefront over the coming year. Of course the city is still a sight to behold regardless of these celebrations with its artfully restored 17th century buildings including an open-air theatre. Every vista in this tiny capital is worthy of a postcard making it a respectable addition to your own must visit list.
4. Zermatt, Switzerland
There’s one mountain synonymous with Zermatt and the Swiss Alps overall and that is Matterhorn. In 2015, this famous peak celebrates 150 years since the first ascent. This southern Swiss city draws countless hikers, mountaineers and skiers from across the globe but even if you’re not the outdoorsy type Zermatt’s beautiful views of the Alps are more than worth the trip on their own.
3. Milan, Italy
This Italian city is most recognized for lavish extravagance, wealth and high end Italian fashion, but in 2015 that all takes a back seat as the city holds Expo 2015. The next world’s fair will be taking over Milan with a theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” which is sure to focus on food of all varieties. The world’s fair has been credited with introducing such items as hamburgers, ice cream cones and cotton candy to the world so make the trip to Milan find out what we’ll be eating in 50 years!
2. El Chaltén, Argentina
Argentina’s newest city celebrates its 30th birthday in 2015. El Chaltén has quickly become the trekking capital of the country as it sits surrounded by the ice and snow covered Monte Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. While still more of a town (or even a village) than a city, as more and more tourists add Argentina to their South American travels, we know this destination is bound to take off.
1. Washington, D.C., USA
The only American city to make this list comes in at first place and while we’re sure the controversial debates are on-going, we think Lonely Planet was on the money with this pick. Chosen for its many recognized museums and monuments, including the famous Smithsonian, this American city is quite possibly one of the most historically significant in the country. It’s a city that’s been on the rise for years and now boasts amazing nightlife, including a vibrant LGBTQ scene and incredible culinary offerings. To top it off, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln so history will be at the forefront over the coming year.