The Easiest Places on Earth to Learn How to Surf

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

12. Frank Island, Tofino, British Columbia

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

Surfing Tofino

11. Lagos, Portugal

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

Arrifana Portugal surfing

10. Taghazoute, Morocco

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

Taghazoute, Morocco surfing

9. Bundoran, Ireland

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

Bundoran, Ireland surfing

8. Waikiki, Hawaii

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

Waikiki, Hawaii

7. Byron Bay, Australia

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

Byron Bay, Australia

6. Nosara, Costa Rica

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

Playa Avellanas Costa Rica

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

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

The Devil's Punchbowl Oregon

4. Inch Marlow, Barbados

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

Barbados beach

3. Playa El Sunzal, El Salvador

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

Playa El Sunzal, El Salvador

2. Piha Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

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

Piha Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

1. Bali, Indonesia

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

Bali, Indonesia beach

15 Amazing Hotels Around The World For Under $100

While it is very easy to spend a lot of money when staying at a nice hotel there are some places around the world that have world class service and rooms that easily fit into any budget. With a little searching you can find hotels that offer luxury accommodations, great facilities and locations. Next time you are looking to get away for a weekend getaway, head out on a business trip or even once in a lifetime family trip, you don’t have to settle for a small room in a substandard hotel because you are afraid it might break your budget. Take some of these suggestions for amazing hotels that you can book for under $100 a night.

15. Chatrium Hotel Riverside -Bangkok, Thailand

The Chatrium Hotel Riverside is a multiple award winning hotel located adjacent to the Chao Phraya River, just 30 km from the International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. A Grand Room with a city view is under $80 and comes with a private balcony. At 60 sq. meters the room comes complete with a kitchenette and dining area, coffee and tea making facilities, bathrobe and slippers. The hotel offers a business center that includes everything necessary if you just can’t leave work behind. A 35 meter infinity pool overlooking the river with an outdoor Jacuzzi awaits along with a fully equipped fitness center. Head to the Nemita spa on the ground floor and get a relaxing massage or do pick up some items in the shops. Also on the premises is a Starbucks Coffee Shop and the Saizen Japanese Restaurant. The hotel also has facilities for meetings and weddings.

Photo by: Chatrium Hotel
Photo by: Chatrium Hotel

14. Sri Bungalows -Ubud, Bali

For under $100 you can book a suite at the Sri Bungalows. The bungalows located in Ubud Bali comes with handsomely appointed suites with a private balcony overlooking the rice terraces. The rooms are stylishly appointed and other facilities include two swimming pools, restaurant and full service spa so you can enjoy a Balinese massage. The bungalows cover two floors and are surrounded by gardens and terraces. The hotel is only a short walk to the Ubud Market and the Monkey Forest. For a relaxing stay in a tropical paradise the price is hard to beat.

Photo by: Sri Bungalows
Photo by: Sri Bungalows

13. Radisson Blu Hotel -Cebu, Philippines

Located in the second largest city in the Philippines, Cebu is a popular destination because of the proximity to beautiful beaches and laid back lifestyle. The number one rated hotel in Cebu can also be had for under $100. The Radisson Blu, located 11 kilometers from the International Airport is conveniently located near all the popular tourist sights. With rooms offering goose feather pillows and duvets the Radisson will surely please. The hotel’s restaurant, Feria, offers both à la carte options and a buffet and with five master chefs the food runs the gamut of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean and International cuisines. The hotel has a large tropical pool outside along with a fully equipped state of the art fitness center and spa. For those staying in a business class room or suite the business class lounge is open daily. The hotel also has a 180 seat lobby bar a pool bar and a tea bar serving 21 different teas from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and South Africa.

Photo by: Radisson Blu
Photo by: Radisson Blu

12. Riad Viva -Marrakech, Morocco

Located in the city center, 15 minutes from the airport, the Riad Viva Hotel offers visitors a relaxing stay in beautifully appointed rooms. The hotel offers guests a wide range of amenities including free WiFi, 24 hr. room service and airport transfers. With a combination of Moroccan style and luxurious amenities guests can be assured of a royal stay. The hotel has a pool along with a steam room and restaurant. The friendly staff can also help in arranging tours to the Ourika Valley, a Berber village, the magical city of Essaouira or point you to the best shopping in town. You can also check out the cooking classes offered by the hotel so you can learn how to use all those aromatic spices and flavors to impress your friends when you return home.

Photo by: Venere
Photo by: Venere

11. Hilton Anatole -Dallas, Texas

You don’t have to travel half way around the world to get a good hotel deal. The Hilton Anatole in Dallas offers the business traveler or visitor to the city comfortable rooms with all the amenities. A room with a King Size bed can be had for under $90 and has just about everything you need as a traveler. The hotel has a full business center and conference facilities and also offers an ATM, currency exchange, clothing store, onsite convenience store and concierge serve. Feel like getting a little exercise? Head to the Verandah Club with fully equipped fitness center, 25 meter lap pool, cross training and boxing gym or enjoy racquet ball the jogging track or basketball courts. The V Spa is the perfect place to get a relaxing massage or spa treatment. In addition to room service there are 5 dining establishments at the hotel including SĒR Steak + Spirits serving up tender steaks and fresh seafood on the 27th floor.

Photo by: Hilton Hotels
Photo by: Hilton Hotels

10. Hotel Paseo Del Arte -Madrid, Spain

Located just a 100 meters from the Atoche Train Station, the Hotel Paseo Del Arte is a 4 star hotel in the heart of Madrid. Comfortably appointed rooms are tastefully furnished and offer a panoramic view of the interior garden or the city. Complete with desk, free WiFi, flat screen TV with international channels, and marble bathroom guests are in the perfect spot to explore the city. The hotel has a fitness facility, shops, coffee shop and bar. The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and along with regional and international cuisine. With 260 rooms the hotel is less than 15 km to the airport making it easily accessible. The hotel is located in the area known as the Arts Triangle and within walking distance to several museums, parks, shopping, restaurants and the famous Madrid nightlife.

Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte
Photo by: Hotel Paseo Del Arte

9. Century Plaza Hotel and Spa -Vancouver, B.C.

The Century Plaza Hotel and Spa is a family owned and operated located in the center of downtown Vancouver. The hotel prides itself on providing the best service possible. With a business center, conference facilities and indoor pool, the Century Plaza is the perfect place for business travelers and families visiting the city. Since opening the Absolute Spa at Century Plaza Hotel 12 years ago, the Spa has received over 50 awards and is the favorite of celebrities like Zac Effron, Elle McPherson and Gwyneth Paltrow when in town. With an ozonated swimming pool, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation lounge the Spa is the perfect place to get pampered. The hotel also features the C Prime Italian Steak and Wine Restaurant. Using locally sourced meats, vegetables and seafood Chef Bruce Woods has made the restaurant one of the hottest destinations in Vancouver. A coffee shop, salon and Vancouver’s iconic comedy club The Comedy Mix are also available to guests.

Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel
Photo by: Century Plaza Hotel

8. Sana Hotel -Berlin, Germany

The Sana Hotel is a 4 star Superior Class hotel located on the west side of Berlin. With 203 rooms including suites and apartments the Sana offers a wide choice of accommodations. A double room can be booked for less than $100 and prices go up from there. Facilities include a breakfast room, restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine, two bars, terrace garden, fitness center and massage services. The F8/eight Bar & Lounge seats 50 and guests can relax with fine wines and spirits while listening to live jazz. A smoking bar also exists for those that enjoy a fine cigar. In addition to massage services the wellness area on the 7th floor offers an indoor swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. The Sana Hotel is also centrally located for sightseeing with the Brandenburg Gate less than 5 km. away, as well as the zoo, museums and cultural facilities being nearby.

Photo by: Sana Hotel
Photo by: Sana Hotel

7. The Signature at MGM Grand -Las Vegas, Nevada

Located just off the famed Las Vegas Strip, The Signature at MGM Grand offers an elevated level of personalized service. Luxuriously appointed suites start at just under $100 and have all the amenities you might expect in luxury hotels costing much more. With a private pool complete with personal cabana and in suite spa services to the spacious suites with granite and marble bathrooms and kitchenettes the hotel does everything possible to pamper the guests. The hotel concierge will ensure you get tickets to the best shows and hard to get restaurant reservations and has a gourmet delicatessen on the premises. Whether you are hitting the Las Vegas Strip, spending the day golfing or seeing the sights you can relax and unwind in your private suite at night and get the rock star treatment from a dedicated staff that does everything the ensure you have the ultimate Las Vegas experience.

Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand
Photo by: Signature at MGM Grand

6. Golden Tulip Amsterdam West -Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is known for offering cheap backpacker accommodations with over 180 hostels in the city. For those not wanting budget sleeping arrangements with noisy neighbors there is an alternative. Conveniently located to Schiphol Airport and the city center the Golden Tulip Amsterdam West makes exploring the city easy. With rates under $100 you can have the comfort of a spacious room with heated floors, a rain shower and free internet access. Comfortably appointed rooms have been designed to be soundproof so guests can get a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by the wild Amsterdam nightlife. The buffet restaurant seats 300 and is open for breakfast and dinner and the modern bar is a great place to relax and have a cocktail, cup of coffee or a slice of homemade pie. The tram stop is a mere 50 meters from the hotel for easy commute to the famous sights such as the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum.

Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels
Photo by: Golden Tulip Hotels

5. Relais Spa Chessy Residence -Paris, France

Visitors to Paris know hotels and pretty much everything else can be pricey. With a little searching you can find gems such as the Relais Spa Chessy Residence near Disneyland Paris. A premium room with free WiFi, unlimited spa access and shuttle to Disney Land can be scooped up for under $100. The rooms have a small office area and a discreet kitchen with hot plate. Hotel amenities include pool, steam room, sauna, gym and spa treatments. The Franklin Bar makes for a cozy place to relax with friends for a drink while the Brasserie Flo restaurant serves up sophisticated French cuisine. The hotel staff strives to ensure each guest gets the VIP treatment.

Photo by: Realis Spa
Photo by: Realis Spa

4. Chateau Victoria -Victoria, B.C.

Sitting on the location of a former mansion the Chateau Victoria is a boutique hotel offering a touch of opulence to guests. The hotel has a colorful past due to a parrot that inherited the old mansion that previously stood there and some swear they have seen the well-dressed ghost of Victoria Jane, the previous mansion owner, roaming the halls. Whether you see a ghost or not one thing you can be assured of. The hotel goes out of the way to make to feel comfortable and the rooms complete with free WiFi and big comfortable beds await the tired traveler. The hotel’s Vista 18 restaurant offers regional cuisine and has an extensive wine list. The hotel bar, Clive’s Classic Lounge, has been listed as one of the top hotel bars by several publications. The hotel offers in room spa treatments and massages and the hotel has a lap pool, hot tub and fitness center.

Photo by: Trip Advisor
Photo by: Trip Advisor

3. Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba -Tokyo, Japan

While Tokyo has its share of pod hotels, where you get to sleep in what resembles a submarine torpedo tube, there are other options. One such option is the Grand Nikko Tokyo Diaba Hotel, a 5 star resort located just 20 minutes from Haneda International airport on 15 minutes from downtown Tokyo. A superior Double room can be booked for under $100 during the week and the hotel comes with such amenities as an outdoor terraced swimming pool with fantastic views of Tokyo, a wellness salon, acupuncture center and has a medical clinic on the premises. The hotel fitness center is fully equipped and has trainers on staff and the hotel has several shops on site. There are eight restaurants at the resort including sushi, Chinese and Italian and the Ruy Lopez Bar stocks liquor from around the world along with fine cigars.

Photo by: Jalan
Photo by: Jalan

2. Lancaster House -Bogota, Colombia

Lancaster House in Bogota Colombia is a boutique hotel designed in the art deco style. The 4 star hotel has two bars, restaurant, gym and sauna. Gatsby Restaurant serves traditional Colombian and International food while the more relaxed Bistro 106 is a great place to relax and get a lighter meal or dessert. Relax in the piano bar with a game of billiards or a cocktail before heading up to your luxurious room. The Junior Suite comes equipped with a living and dining area, work space and kitchen. The hotel also offers a mobile spa service so guests can book a massage or just relax in the sauna. Located in an upscale neighborhood close to embassies and near the major shopping areas the Lancaster is centrally located for easy access to all the city has to offer.

Photo by: Lancaster House
Photo by: Lancaster House

1. Kaani Village and Spa -Maldives

The Kaani Village and Spa located in the beautiful Maldives offers guests a pampered option to staying at a discounted beach hotel. With a Double Deluxe room overlooking the pool that comes with a breakfast included the hotel makes a perfect base to enjoy the island. The Sampa Spa at the hotel offers tradition Thai massage as well as aroma massages performed by two masseuses at once. The hotel has a pool and restaurant and the hotel staff can arrange activities such as fishing, dolphin watching, scuba diving, snorkeling or an island tour complete with picnic. Rated number 3 out of 40 small boutique hotels by TripAdvisor the Kaani Village and Spa does everything possible to pamper guests and make your stay memorable.

Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa
Photo by: Kaani Village & Spa

Lonely Planet’s Best Animal Adventures for Families

Looking to spice your family vacation up? Perhaps you are sick of white sand beaches, all-inclusive resorts of over-the-top kid based destinations. If you are after adventure, animals and something out of the ordinary, Lonely Planet has just named its Best Animal Adventures for Families for 2016. So what are you waiting for? Pack those bags, get those passports out and discover these once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

9. Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, Chengdu, China

Giant Panda’s are not only a Chinese national treasure but are loved around the world by many, and with fewer than 2,000 of them left they are an endangered species. This non-profit research and breeding facility for these animals was founded in 1987 with just 6 pandas that were rescued from the wild. It has recreated the natural habitat for the pandas to have the best environment possible for rearing and breeding. Visitors here will walk along the paths observing the giant pandas of all ages, resting, eating, drinking and playing with one another. Visit early in the morning to see the baby pandas playing about. Experts are on hand to speak to visitors about the pandas, and how you can best protect them. Note that this experience should be for slightly older kids as there is a policy on being quiet within the base.

"1 panda trio sichuan china 2011" by chensiyuan - chensiyuan. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.
1 panda trio sichuan china 2011” by chensiyuan – chensiyuan. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

8. Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A

Over three million guests visit Yellowstone National Park each year and as the world’s oldest National Park, it has plenty to offer families in search of an animal adventure. It has the world-famous reputation of easy-to-spot wildlife and whether you are looking for bears, moose, mountain goats, elks, eagles or beavers, they can all be found here. One of the best ways for families to spot wildlife is to head deep into the park, camping and staying off the beaten path. There are numerous tour operators that run specialty family tour throughout the park where rangers help kids track, catch and band songbirds, take float trips down the Snake River- a popular spot for bears, moose and beavers, or horseback through the park. Self-guided or guided, this park is a family fun adventure not to be missed.

Yellowstone National Park

7. Goats in Trees, Essaouira, Morocco

The best part about Morocco, other than the goats in the trees, is the fact that this country LOVES children. Expect to find locals who pat your little one’s heads as they walk by, family-friendly hotels with playground and playrooms and plenty of stretches of beach to discover. Back to the goats in the trees though. It is an extraordinary sight to see goats, high up in the trees, munching on argan nuts. Indeed, though these goats absolutely love the nuts that grow on the Argania tree and are known to swarm the trees all at once, making this one roadside stop worth making.

Goats in Trees, Essaouira, Morocco

6. Refugio Nacional de Fauna Silvestre Ostional, Costa Rica

This 248-acre coastal refuge was created in 1992 to protect the arribadas, or mass nesting of the Olive Ridley sea turtles. This phenomenon occurs from July to November, peaking from August to October and these turtles nest in large groups that can number in the thousands. You will have to keep your kids up late for this activity but it is well worth it, trust us. You can spend the rest of your days exploring the incredible country of Costa Rica and all that it offers including even more turtles, crocodiles, butterflies, birds and more. There is no shortage of wildlife or incredible activities to do here!

Photo by: Efetur
Photo by: Efetur

5. Bat Flights, Carlsbad Caverns, U.S.A

Every evening in the summer, in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, visitors are treated to a spectacle of bats leaving their home in search of dinner. If your kids have any fascination with bats, this is absolutely the place to take them. The bat flight program starts with a talk from a park ranger in an outdoor amphitheater where visitors sit to take in the dazzling display of hundreds of thousands of bat as they begin to pour out of the cave. They fly in a spiral pattern, sort of like a bat tornado and the acoustics are so good you can hear their wings as they whoosh by. Not only will this blow your kids minds, but yours as well. Check the website for certain nights when you can stay after the bat flight and learn about the nighttime sky.

Photo by: CNN
Photo by: CNN

4. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

It is Uganda’s most visited national park and attracts visitors of all ages from all over the world with its enormous display of wildlife. Count on seeing hippopotamus, elephants, African leopards, Congo lions, chimpanzees and more. Housing over 95 species of mammal and 500 species of birds, you won’t ever hear your kids mutter the words “I’m bored”. This national park is also famous for its tree-climbing lions whose males actually sport a black mane. Within the park expect to see volcanic cones and deep craters, crater lakes, wetlands, forests and more. With lodges located within the park, along with the Kazinga Channel, it is easy to spend a week exploring this incredible habitat.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

3. Walkabout Wildlife Park, New South Wales, Australia

A visit to this wildlife park where native Australian animals roam free is a spectacle whether you visit during the day or at night. Some of the animals you will see during the day include koalas, dingoes, flying foxes, Tasmanian devils, cockatoos, lizards and dragons. The favorite part of the day though comes when the sun sets and the nocturnal animals come out such as the boobook owls, tawny frogmouths, bilbies, bandicoots, sugar gliders and more. Roaming free around the park visitors can expect to see emus, wallaroos, kangaroos, wallabies and snakes. Families can experience the nocturnal animals during either a nocturnal tour or a ranger-led wild sleep over, in either an eco-cottage or under the stars at the campsite.

Photo by: Walkabout Wildlife Park
Photo by: Walkabout Wildlife Park

2. Monkey Rescue, Pretoria, South Africa

Do something meaningful as a family during your next vacation and volunteer at the primate sanctuary in South Africa. Caring for more than 120 primates that have been rescued from labs, zoos and people; this organization is dedicated to caring for these monkeys that cannot go back into the wild. Volunteers will help with food preparation, making monkey beds, providing enrichment and more. And don’t worry, there is special “monkey time” carved out which will allow you to spend time with the primates and get to know them. Note that this experience is only for families with older children.

Photo by: International Primate Rescue sanctuary
Photo by: International Primate Rescue sanctuary

1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

It just may be the ultimate wildlife adventure, for anyone of any age. Discovering the Galapagos Islands with kids means creating one of the most intimate wildlife encounters, and requires a lot of planning. Family friendly cruises are the recommended way to do this trip with kids, as they offer a ton of amenities on board and create special learning opportunities for young ones. Swim with friendly sea lions, snorkel with turtles, observe giant wild tortoises and learn about the incredible ecology of this magical place. Do note that some tour operators require children to be a minimum age and it’s best to do your research before booking this incredible vacation.

Photo by: Abercrombie & Kent
Photo by: Abercrombie & Kent

The 7 Best Beaches for Winter Surfing

Surfing is truly a year round sport, especially with the advances in wetsuit technology, making it easier than ever to stay warm and surf any temperature of water. Surfing is challenging enough on its own, but throw in huge winter swells and this sport becomes even more exciting. From the warm waters of Hawaii to the especially cold waters of Canada, these 7 places are the ultimate for winter surfing. Some of these beaches have waves meant for the experts while others are good for all levels, but they all have one thing in common, they are absolutely awesome in the wintertime.

7. Black’s Beach, California

Black Beach is a two-mile long beach that is perfect for winter surfing. On the southern edge of this beach is where you will find the best waves. The reason this beach puts out such good waves is that it sucks in north swells and manages to spit out A-frames and shimmering walls. Local surfers flock to this beach but it is well worth the walk down the trail to catch a few of these epic waves. Make sure you bundle up in that wetsuit as the water in the wintertime is quite chilly. If you look high above on the cliff tops you can be sure to spot some resident peregrine falcons.

"Blacks-Beach-View-South-La-Jolla" by Abeach4u - http://www.san-diego-beaches-and-adventures.com/blacks-beach-san-diego.html. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.
Blacks-Beach-View-South-La-Jolla” by Abeach4uhttp://www.san-diego-beaches-and-adventures.com/blacks-beach-san-diego.html. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

6. Hanalei Beach, Hawaii

This two-mile long beach in Hawaii boasts white sands and an incredible background of mountains and lush green vegetation. It is known not just as a romantic beach but also a surfer’s paradise. From September to May is the best time to head to this beach as the current is sturdy and the waves break right on the beach. A sand bottom makes this beach is even more appealing to surfers. Make sure you are an experienced surfer as the strong current and huge waves in the wintertime can be dangerous for beginners. The nice thing about surfing in Hawaii is the year round warm water temperatures and weather.

Hanalei Beach, Hawaii

5. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

The north shore has been called Europe’s answer to Hawaii and surfing in the winter has been happening here for years and years. Locals call Fuerteventura “the Rock” but unlike the sand on most of the other Canary Islands which is black, the sand here is a charming pale yellow. The sun often shines all day in the wintertime here and the water is a sparkling royal blue. Surfers head to Playa Morro to ride long gentle waves into shore in the bath-warm water. For a bigger wave head to Playa Cotillo where the waves descend onto the shores with a deafening crash, or head to the famous Acid Drop or the Bubble, two north shore breaks that make this island famous. There are plenty of accommodations, delicious places to eat and more than enough helpful locals to point you in the right direction of the best winter waves.

Esmerelda Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

4. Morocco, Africa

The best time for surfing, hands down, in Morocco is the wintertime. From September to April you will find bigger swells and mild weather, the perfect combination. The waves here generally break over flat rock and sand with great point breaks and surfers come from all over the world to experience these waters. Boilers is Morocco’s most challenging surf spot, named after the boiler of a shipwreck that can be seen as the waves form. This awe-inspiring surf spot is meant for experienced surfers only, especially in the winter with those big swells. Anchor Point on the other hand is known for its consistent waves at all tide and waves normally start at 3 feet and can reach up to 15 feet. There is no better time to experience the famous right hands than the wintertime in Northern Africa.

Surfing Morocco, Africa

3. Tofino, British Columbia, Canada

It is here where you will find 35 km’s of surf-able beach breaks, perfect for beginners or experts, although big winter storms will have beginners watching from shore. Prepare to bundle up when you hit these cold Canadian waters, as you will need a warm wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood. Although this is a year round surfing destination with thousands flocking in the summertime to try their hand at this sport, its winter that offers the strongest and most consistent swell. The surfing town of Tofino has an array of shops, places to eat and off-the-wall accommodations. Most surfers head to Long Beach where 16 km’s of sand await any level of surfer. Chesterman Beach is also a popular hot spot, located just 8 minutes from Central Tofino and offers one of the best beginner breaks in North America. As for the cold, you hardly notice it when you are zipping along some of the best winter waves in the world.

Tofino surfing

2. Baja, Mexico

Baja can be divided into two major surf regions; Northern Baja and Southern Baja with both offering excellent winter surfing. If you want the really big swell though, you will head to Northern Baja, but be prepared to bundle up. It’s much colder up here and its not uncommon to need a full wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood. The Northern area is also where you will find great breaks without big crowds, although some of the areas have become more developed with vacation homes and rentals. Head to San Miguel for some of the best winter waves, although surfers need to be aware of sea urchins and sharp rock bottom. For some of the biggest waves in the Pacific during the winter head to Todos Santos (The Killers), an island accessible by boat or Jet Ski. There are a variety of breaks around the island including Killers, one of the original big break surfing spots. You won’t find many beginners here, just great waves and great surfers.

surfing Baja Mexico

1. Maine, USA

The water is never particularly warm in this state but that doesn’t stop surfers from flocking here in the winter months. You won’t get the towering swells of Pacific hot spots but you will get unspoiled landscapes, desolate waters, a tight community of local surfers and consistent surf-able waves. Beginners and vets often head to Long Sands Beach, which offers a clean beach with waves breaking over a sandbar. Some of the biggest waves in the state are located at the exposed beach called Higgins Beach. It here where fifteen-foot swells are not unheard of and there are a few rocks to watch out for, so beginners should be very cautious. In the summer this beach is actually closed during the day to surfers so this remains a popular winter surfing destination.

Photo by: Youtube/DaveIn NH
Photo by: Youtube/DaveIn NH

11 Jaw-Dropping Gardens From Around The World

Historically, the description of a garden has been characterized as everything from vegetable to floral, manicured to overgrown, manmade to natural. Varying greatly by region and culture, the existence and evolution of this type of designated outdoor space cannot be adequately explained in one all-encompassing definition; it can however be simply described as having 2 universal characteristics: nature and tranquility. So, to showcase the amazing collaboration between human talent and Mother Nature, here are 11 exquisite gardens around the world that are sure to bring not only extreme peace, but genuine appreciation to anyone visits them.

11. Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland

Found on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, about 25 km from Belfast, the gardens at Mount Stewart are frequently recognized as some of the most beautiful in the world. The estate was built in the mid-1880s for the Marquesses of Londonderry under the leadership of architects George Dance and Vitruvius Morrison. Along with the world-renowned gardens, the property includes the main residence building, a variety of outbuildings and monuments and the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family burial ground. Today, the estate is owned and maintained by the National Trust and visitors can explore both the house and the spectacular grounds, which feature the sunk garden, shamrock garden and Italian garden, to name a few. Lady Londonderry was known for her love of Irish and Greek Mythology, and elements from both of these traditions can be seen along the walkways of both the formal gardens and the more wooded, natural grounds.

Photo by: Flickr/Charlie Dave
Photo by: Flickr/Charlie Dave

10. Dumbarton Oaks, USA

This stunning escape in the heart of Washington DC was once the private residence and gardens of Robert Woods Bliss and his wife Mildred. In the 1940s, the couple donated the lower portion of their 53- acre property to the United States Government for the creation of a public park, and the upper portion to Harvard University for research in Byzantine studies and landscape art. Today, the formal gardens of the Harvard building and the more ‘naturistic’ public park are the two components of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, a property that still retains much of the design created by Mildred Bliss and lead landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. Visitors can marvel at this stunning (and quiet!) piece of beauty hidden away amid the bustle of the Georgetown neighborhood and appreciate the meticulously thought out details of the garden, from each center piece tree to the strategically placed benches and urns. Originally created to mimic the feel of ‘country’ in the city, this garden definitely delivers and is the perfect place to snag some peace in an otherwise hectic place.

Photo by: Flickr/DC Gardens
Photo by: Flickr/DC Gardens

9. Villa d’Este Gardens, Italy

Stepping into the gardens at Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy is akin to stepping into a parallel universe of unimaginable beauty. The grandiosity of the seemingly ground-to-sky landscaping and water fixtures prove that the original creator (a 16th century cardinal) spared no expense in creating this private piece of paradise. Today, the property is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized as one of the first examples of giardini delle meraviglie (literally ‘wonderland gardens’), as well as the blueprint for what is now known as the characteristic ‘European Garden.’ Open to the public since the 1920s, admission grants access to the palace and gardens, and visitors can take in the surroundings from any one of the tiered terraces (reminiscent of the ancient hanging gardens of Babylon) or stroll through the manicured lower grounds amid countless ponds, fountains, basins and waterfalls. Located just 35 km from Rome, this garden is a must-see for anyone visiting the area.

Villa d’Este Gardens, Italy

8. Majorelle Garden, Morocco

This 12 acre garden found in the heart of Marrakesh is a plethora of exotic plants, ponds and colors. The tireless, 40 year efforts of French artist Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) live on in the astounding beauty that greets visitors as they meander through the many shaded lanes and walkways, and encounter the aroma of countless water lilies and lotus flowers that float majestically in the numerous pools. The vibrant coloring of all garden fixtures really adds to the exotic vibe of the garden and the sheer height and magnitude of the landscaping creates the isolated feeling of a truly secluded sanctuary within the city.

The Visual Explorer / Shutterstock.com
The Visual Explorer / Shutterstock.com

7. Yuyuan Garden, China

With ‘yu’ meaning ‘peaceful’ in Chinese, it’s not hard to understand why Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai is also known as Yu Garden. Though now attached to a bustling market that attracts millions of yearly visitors, the serenity of the 5 acre gardens are not lost, with ample opportunities to get lost among the many ponds, walkways and overgrown walls. The garden’s history dates back hundreds of years (originally created as a private escape for the Ming Dynasty) and has weathered many changes in owners and national political landscapes. After being neglected, abandoned and severely damaged, the gardens underwent a privately funded restoration project in the 1950s, before finally being opened to the public in 1961. The exquisite grounds now feature several rockeries, ponds, halls and cloisters, as well as the infamous Jade Rock, widely considered the greatest treasure of the property.

Yuyuan Garden, China

6. The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens, Spain

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Alhambra and Generalife complexes date back to the medieval period (the Alhambra may be even older) as the fortresses and royal residences of ruling emirs. Located in Grenada, on the south coast of Spain, the property saw both expansion and neglect over time as rules and political climates changed in the region. Today, the site encompasses a vast area composed of various palaces, courtyards and outbuildings, all surrounded by and scattered with some of the most magnificent gardens in the world. For visitors, the site provides an unparalleled trip through history displaying both magnificent Eastern architecture as well as the early advent of characteristic European landscaping. The fountains, pools, arched hedges and cobblestone and tile walkways create an aura of romance and elegance not found anywhere else in the world. For an upgraded experience, stay at the gardens past dusk and watch the property transform into a fairy tale world as it becomes illuminated by hundreds of lights.

The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens, Spain

5. Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Gardens, Thailand

The Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Gardens north of Sattahip feature 500 acres of mind-boggling landscape design. Opened to the public in 1980, the property currently contains several design divisions, including French, European, Stone and Cactus and Succulent Gardens, as well as one of the world`s greatest displays of the ancient and endangered cycads plant group (the garden also serves as an important conservation and research facility for this species). For a 500 baht entrance fee (approximately 14 USD) visitors gain access to the entire property, as well as an awesome variety of live entertainments, such as traditional Thai and elephant shows. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, because the expansive gardens are easily a whole-day excursion packed with fun for the whole family.

Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Gardens, Thailand

4. The Butchart Gardens, Canada

This magnificent garden was originally created by Jennie Butchart as a “sunken garden” to beautify a former stone quarry on the family’s property. The addition of the Japanese and Italian gardens in the early 1990s catapulted the site into national fame, with the 1920s bringing upwards of 50,000 visitors. Since then, the garden has expanded to include a Mediterranean garden, rose garden, and concert lawn walk. Remaining a family-owned business, the gardens now attract over 1 million people each year and boasts over 900 floral and plant varieties. Though the site is open year round, the most show-stopping arrangements can be seen from March to October, when garden admission rates hover around the $30 mark. Taking a stroll among the many spectacularly manicures flower beds, fountains, ponds and tree arrangements is truly an indulgence for the senses, and one of the best reasons to take a trip to Victoria, BC.

The Butchart Gardens, Canada

3. Dubai Miracle Gardens, UAE

A shockingly amazing display of floral design and creativity, the Dubai Miracle Garden is a mandatory destination for anyone visiting the city. The 17-acre grounds feature countless intricate flower beds, as well as an extravagant variety of fixtures—everything from vandalized cars, entire houses, and historic carriages and train cars -completely adorned in and beautified by floral arrangements. Walking through the gardens is like a giant feast for the eyes, with new explosions of color and design visible at every turn and from every angle. The garden blooms year-round with arrangements changing by the season, so visitors have the unique opportunity to catch a once in a lifetime display each time they visit. Since opening in 2013, the garden has become one of the city`s most popular attractions, featuring over 45 million flowers and drawing hundreds of thousands yearly to this incredible display of floral creativity.

Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

2. Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, France

On the extremely long list of reasons to visit the French Riviera, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Sainte Jean Cap Ferrat should be somewhere near the top. Built in the early 1900s, the villa became the winter residence of Beatrice de Rothschild until 1933, when she donated the estate and all of its contents to the Academie des Beaux Arts. The property features one of the most beautiful outdoor estates in the world, surrounding the villa with a collection of gardens, including a rose, exotic, Provençal, Japanese, stone, Florentine, French, Spanish and Sevres garden. These 9 unique gardens showcase the brilliantly creative mind of the designer and provide visitors with the chance to get lost amid hundred year old olive trees, extravagant flower beds and whimsical musical fountains, all while being surrounded by unparalleled views of the Mediterranean.

marekusz / Shutterstock.com
marekusz / Shutterstock.com

1. Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands

Consistently recognized as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, the Keukenhof Gardens are found about 37 km west of Amsterdam. The site dates back to the 15th century as the “kitchen garden” of Teylingen Castle. The gardens seen today are based on the foundation created by lead architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher who redesigned the grounds in 1857. The property was opened to the public in 1950 with a dazzling display of flowers that bloom in springtime, founding its current international identity as the world’s premier Spring Garden. Visitors now have just 8 weeks to marvel at the more than 7 million flowering bulbs that exhibit the very best of what the Dutch horticultural world has to offer. Open next year from March 24- May 16, visitors can check out hundreds of blooming varieties of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, as well as enjoy the site’s many children’s events, flower shows and “inspirational” garden exhibits.

Keukenhof Gardens, Netherlands

A Global Soup Tour: 10 Fall Favorites From Around the World

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.

Bouillabaisse

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.

Caldo Verde

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.

Cullen Skink (2)

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.

Fasolada

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.

Harira

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.

Mulligatawny

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.

Tom Yum

Laksa -Malaysia

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.

Laksa

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.

Solyanka

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.

Clam Chowder

8 Unforgettable Experiences in Morocco

Morocco is wonderfully overwhelming in every way possible. As a northern country in Africa, the temperatures are often above 40 degrees Celsius and since you are dressing respectfully, it is not uncommon to have a constant feeling of stickiness. The foods and smells are everywhere- brightly colored cones of spices, honey roasted nuts, grilled meat and sugar coated pastries fill the air at all hours of the day. The culture can be a shock, and the medinas are sometimes frightening, but the experiences in Morocco are unique, special and breathtaking. Morocco will quickly grab hold of you; open your mind to all the wonderful possibilities this country has to offer and it is quite easy to see how it has fascinated tourists for generations.

8. Surfing at Essaouira

When people think of Morocco, they generally don’t think of it as a surfing local, but Essaouira has been drawing surfers (including kite surfers) from around the world for years. The Atlantic waves are best during the winter months when the swells are more consistent and the temperatures are not as hot, but you can definitely find some good waves any time of the year. The town of Essaouira is a relaxed, fishing town, less demanding than the larger cities like Marrakesh and Fes, but it is still distinctly Moroccan. The Medina has plenty of local crafts, delicious snacks and many outdoor cafes where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of mint tea after a hard day out on the water!

Surfing at Essaouira

7. Participate in Traditional Hammam Bathing

For adventurists seeking a bit of Moroccan tradition, the hammam is a public steam bath in Morocco. While not as common anymore since the introduction of modern plumbing, they are still a great cultural experience. Hammams offer women travelers (there are fewer hammams available for men, and they are always bathed in separate quarters) a chance to meet local women; while it may seem strange to be bathed surrounded by women, hammams were traditionally the only place people could come bathe, scrub and socialize! There are both upscale, spa-like hammams, geared towards tourists, that offer more Western style massages and scrubs, or there are the local, more traditional hammams, usually found near the mosques in town. Whichever you choose, it is a unique and eye-opening experience that offers a glimpse into the Moroccan culture.

Photo by: Complete Morocco
Photo by: Complete Morocco

6. Go on a Camel Trek in the Sahara

Spending the night in the middle of the Sahara desert is one of life’s most incredible experiences.  The Sahara is a magical place, and Morocco’s desert is the most popular place to explore the otherworldly landscape. The dunes begin in Merzouga, from where most tours start and finish; from there you will most likely hop on a camel and begin the trek to the Erg Chebbi, the massive and dramatic dunes most often visited. Usually you depart on your trek about an hour before sunset because this allows you time to climb to the top of a dune and watch the sun dip below the sand which is one of the most breathtaking sunsets you will ever see. If you are feeling up to it, you can sleep right on the sand, under a brilliant blanket of stars. This is one of the most unforgettable experiences, and is an absolute must do when visiting Morocco. You will leave with memories to last a lifetime.

Camel Trek in Sahara, Morocco

5. Visit Ait-Ben-Haddou

The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a fortified city located between the Sahara and Marrakesh. Most of the locals now live in more modern homes nearby, however there are still four families living in the ancient city. An ancient city made almost entirely of earthen clay, it looks as if it has risen from the ground. Glance quickly around and you may look right by it! Many famous films have been shot here, including Gladiator and Prince of Persia and wandering through its streets with a guide really takes you back to a time when this ancient city was thriving. It is very hot and dry here, so make sure to pack lots of water, but there is a restaurant located in the nearby village where you can enjoy a traditionally prepared Moroccan meal after your exploring!

Ait-Ben-Haddou, Morocco

4. Climbing in the High Atlas Mountains

Home to North Africa’s highest peak, the Jebel Toubkal stands 4,167m tall and rises high above the clouds in the High Atlas mountain range. The best time to trek is in April or May, however hiking is available year round. Most treks start from Imlil, a small town about an hour’s drive from Marrakesh; here you can find accommodations and a local guide to take you up the mountains if you don’t want to go on your own. The mountains are dramatic and imposing, and hiking to the top of one should not be taken lightly; however, if you arrive prepared, the views when you reach the top are beyond rewarding.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

3. Visit One of the Tanneries in Fes

Fes is famous for its wide variety of leather products, most of them made locally from the tanneries in old Fes. The production of leather is still very similar to how it was made in medieval times – some of the tanneries are still run and operated by distant family members. The leather products are beautiful and obviously handcrafted; it is a fascinating experience to actually witness how the leather product is created! The best way to do this is to head inside one of the leather shops in old Fes; the tour guides and owners will work very hard to sell you a product, but you must insist they take you up to the top of the shop first. It is NOT a requirement to buy first, or even at all! It is from the top that you will get the best views of the tanneries. You can see every necessary step to the tanning process here. Be warned, the animal hides and pigeon poop they are treated in are very smelly though, so make sure you grab a sprig of fresh mint when offered!

Tanneries in Fes

2. Take a Walk Through Djemma el Fna in Marrakesh

The Djemma el Fna is the heart of Marrakesh – it is the Morocco of movies and poetry, paintings and photographs. Walking around the square (the central square in the old city) you will come across snake charmers, jugglers, musicians, and rows upon rows of snack stalls. Glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice and expertly marinated meat skewers are available for you at any time of the day. However, wander the square at night and it comes alive; the music is louder, the smells are stronger and the entertainment is intoxicating. Watch your wallet though, and be prepared to be bothered for money should you take photos of entertainers or locals, but Djemma el Fna is a wonderful assault on the senses, leaving you pulsing for days after.

Djemma el Fna, Morocco

1. Relax and Unwind in the City of Chefchaouen

Situated right in the middle of Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a city drowned in a brilliant shade of blue. The streets, the buildings, the windows and the steps in the medina (the old part of town) are all painted a mesmerizing blue. The rugged mountains surrounding the city offer a stark contrast to the brightly colored town, lending a magical feel to this Moroccan hideaway. The locals here are very friendly and the medina here is less stressful than the medina’s in the more densely populated Moroccan towns. It is the perfect place to unwind after a whirlwind Moroccan tour – slow down and wander the streets – leave plenty of time for glasses of mint tea!

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Top 10 Destinations Around the World for Homestays

A homestay can be an incredibly rewarding experience both for the homeowners and visitors. Typically, students use homestays as safe, affordable accommodations when traveling on a tight budget. But it’s also a great way to practice language skills in a comfortable environment and receive insider information on the best areas to explore in their travel destination—homestays are especially suited to solo female travelers. There are homestays all around the world to suit almost any type endeavor, from remote villages to vivacious cities, the following are 10 alluring destinations ripe with homestay options ideal for enjoying a fulfilling sojourn abroad.

10. Yuvacali, Turkey

In Turkey’s southeast region, in the village of Yuvacali, visitors receive a raw experience of what daily life is like for local Kurdish families. Traditional life means hard work for families living here, most only survive off a few dollars a day. Though struggling financially, these families offer a culturally rich experience for anyone interested in a unique holiday. A handful of families in the small village offer accommodation under the starry skies of Yuvacali in a nomadic canvas tent adorned with vibrant paintings or in a traditional, mud/brick house. Guests help out on the farm, learn to cook traditional dishes on an open hearth, and enjoy swapping stories with locals. This is no five-star hotel (in fact, it’s far from it) and families here, though extremely friendly, present an opportunity to work together, not offer hotel-like services. If you’re up for the challenge of helping out, Yuvacali has plenty to offer any curious, open-minded traveler.

Village in Turkey

9. Tighza Valley, Morocco

Throughout Morocco, there an abundant number of opportunities to experience a homestay with a local family. One particularly magical place is within the breathtaking Tighza Valley where many Berber families open their homes to foreign visitors, offering simple, clean rooms within family owned homes. The arid valley, dusted with cacti and leafy green foliage, is within the high-reaching Atlas Mountains, far from the turbid, bustling cities of Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, and Rabat. This is rural Moroccan life at its finest: simple and scenic. Within the valley, most guests take to the alpine trails, hiking throughout the valley and enjoying mountainous routes filled with endless snap-worthy scenes: Berber women cultivating fields, shepherds watching after flocks of goats and sheep, and boisterous children playing imaginative games. Life definitely happens at a slow pace, which is not for everyone, but the Berber people are exceptionally welcoming and on point with keeping guests occupied and well-fed.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

8. Old Havana, Cuba

Becoming familiar with the words “casa particular” or “casa particulares” is a great advantage when traveling to Cuba for an independent holiday. The term means “private house”, and upon booking, will land you either a private home or room. The Cuban government issues special permits for renting out privately owned homes, or rooms in family homes, and they are advertised through bright blue signs out front with the words “Arrendador Divisa”, it’s a rental permit showing which casas are legal. Prices vary and depend on the travel season, area of Cuba, amenities offered, square footage, and so on. One of the best places for casas is in Old Havana, where friendly owners give a healthy measure of gossip and tips on the lay of the land. You’ll get great insider information on Old Havana’s top music clubs, festivals, and bars, and most often the owner will treat you just like family.

Old Havana, Cuba

7. Lisbon, Portugal

In Portugal, “Solares de Portugal” is an interesting idea introduced to bolster tourism within houses laden with charm and unique character, calledTurismo de Habitação”. The concept is aimed at preserving rich heirlooms of the country’s cultural and architectural heritage. This type of accommodation is not a guesthouse or hotel, but a genuine homestay. Accommodation comes in various forms such as rustic farmhouses, elegant estates, and grand country homes restored to their original luster for welcoming guests from around the world. Most homestays can be found in Lisbon, but others are in Porto, Faro, the southwest islands, and other small Portuguese cities and towns. The Solares exemplify hundreds of years of Portuguese culture and history (a large part of the magnificent 17th and 18th centuries manors are owned by descendents of the original owners). Taken quite seriously as a representation of their country, the Portuguese are dedicated to providing exceptional experiences to foreign visitors.

Breakfast in Lisbon Portugal

6. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil

If you’ve ever had the desire to explore the deepest reaches of the Amazon Rainforest, a Brazilian homestay could be an idyllic experience. Easily planned in Manaus, you can book a trip and be paired up with an indigenous family. You’ll score a room in an eco-lodge or camp under the forest canopy—it’s entirely up to you. Lodges are simply constructed from locally sourced, natural building materials and designed in traditional style. Think “fancy” thatch hut with some modern conveniences and you’re not far off. Ideal for intrepid spirits, planning a trek through the lush, magical landscape is authentic, eye-opening, and lands you where wildlife is richest. Friendly indigenous guides offer a healthy dose of insight on the rain forest ecosystem and teach guests survival tips in a natural environment. You’ll also be treated to some amazing local eats and be privy to some Amazonian cooking secrets too.

Amazon Eco Lodge

5. Lake Titicaca, Peru

Peru is home to some of the greatest archaeological treasures in the world and exhibits some truly fascinating history. The entire country has something to offer: the finest specimens of Inca ruins, Pacific Coast beaches, Amazon River rafting, sand-boarding, incredible national parks, and magnificent cross-country train rides. There are a host of options for budget accommodation in Peru, but a homestay experience offers more; enjoy a vacation with a ton of insight into one of the most culturally and historically prosperous countries in the world. There are several homestays around Lake Titicaca (the highest lake in existence) providing authentic accommodations with the added value of a tour of the floating reed islands, local dining and Andean musical evenings, and a look at pre-Inca ruins and centuries-old agricultural terraces. If city living seems more interesting, there are many host families in colorful Cusco and in the capital city of Lima.

Lake Titicaca, Peru

4. Brest Oblast, Belarus

There are a large number of homestays and farmstays in the Brest region of Belarus, a cosmopolitan town situated in the southwest bordering Poland. Here you’ll find historical monuments, war memorials, charming galleries, and Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. If you’re traveling from the capital city of Minsk, prepare to disembark into a town far more influenced by its EU neighbors than the Soviets. Cozy, comfortable Brest homestays are run by friendly families eager to show guests surrounding attractions, cook traditional meals, and facilitate independent outings including hiking and fishing trips, cycling tours, and other outdoor pursuits. Visitors will find that Belarusians have an innate love for the natural world so expect to spend quality time exploring surrounding landscapes. Most homes are two stories and have anywhere from two to six bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Some sport saunas, outdoor fireplaces, canoes, and fishing boats so check amenities thoroughly.

Brest, Belarus

3. Brisbane, Melbourne & Sydney, Australia

Australia has scores of homestay organizations typically helping students find a safe and comfortable place to live while studying abroad. Many programs are government endorsed, aimed at helping students acclimate in a healthy and safe environment while providing a reliable place to practice their studies. Though those scenarios are typical, homestays are also an option for anyone wishing to travel in Australia while staying with local hosts. There’s a dizzying array of options in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney along the southeastern stretch and even more in the west and northern territories. Australian homestays are popular because of their relatively inexpensive rates compared to hotels while also offering an authentic local experience in the Land Down Under. If you’re using an organization to book accommodation, succinctly communicate your desired experience; some families offer more of a bed and breakfast whilst others set aside ample time to spend with guests.

Circular Quay Sydney Australia

2. Sa Pa, Vietnam

If Southeast Asian culture is appealing, there are Vietnamese families offering homestays across the country. From lively cities packed with people and an endless flurry of activity, to verdant farmlands and rice paddies where slow and steady is the pace, what’s up for grabs in Vietnam is fairly unique to many other countries. In the old town of Sa Pa in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains there are stunning agricultural terraces that define the landscape where host families wait with open arms; Vietnamese people are extremely welcoming, hospitable, and chatty. Families embrace you, ply you with food and drink, introduce you to all the neighbors. They will even show you around the area. There’s almost no beating the incredible pride Vietnamese people feel when hosting foreigners. Enjoy Sa Pa’s beauty through climbing and hiking within the mountains, exploring hill tribe markets, volunteering at the local school—there are plenty of fulfilling activities available.

Sa Pa, Vietnam

1. Kerala, India

Tucked into the southwest tip of India is delightful Kerala, a world away from the typical, chaotic India. A lovely coastal town nestled on the shores of the Arabian Sea, Kerala is a laid back plexus of gleaming backwaters and flourishing tea and spice covered slopes. Tame your inner wild child with a hefty dose of Kerala, breathe in the salty air, gaze upon peaceful temples, and smell the endlessly spiced aromas. Festivals and celebrations, wild elephants, and exquisite boathouses will reel you in. Most accommodations are heritage homes, unique in architectural design with anywhere from one to twenty-plus rooms led by easygoing locals for nominal fees—choose a smaller abode for a more personal cultural exchange. Hosts are easygoing, offer rides to and from town and usually provide bicycles for exploring. Sanctuaries and synagogues, beaches and bayous; Kerala is an arresting blend of attractions with piles of things to do and see.

Kerala India

The 15 Best New Hotels on the Planet

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

15. Pikaia Lodge, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

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

Photo by: Pikaia Lodge
Photo by: Pikaia Lodge

14. Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, Okavango Delta, Botswana

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

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

13. Viña Vik, Millahue, Chile

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

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

12. The Norman, Tel Aviv, Israel

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

Photo by: The Norman
Photo by: The Norman

11. Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard, London

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

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

10. Four Seasons Resort Orlando, FL

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

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

9. Adler Mountain Lodge, Dolomites, Italy

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

Photo by: Carlos Muela
Photo by: ADLER Mountain Lodge

8. Belle Mont Farm, St. Kitts

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

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

7. Maalifushi by Como, Maldives

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

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

6. Raffles, Istanbul

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

Photo by: Raffles Istanbul
Photo by: Raffles Istanbul

5. Hotel Sahrai, Fez, Morocco

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

Photo by: Hotel Sahrai
Photo by: Hotel Sahrai

4. Vines Resort & Spa, Mendoza, Argentina

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

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

3. 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

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

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

2. Namiri Plains, Tanzania

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

Photo by: Namiri Plains
Photo by: Namiri Plains

1. The Brando, Tetiaroa, French Polynesia

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

Photo by: The Brando
Photo by: The Brando

Underrated Escapes: The 8 Most Beautiful Places in the Mediterranean

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

8. Tarifa, Spain

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

Kitesurfing Tarifa, Spain

7. Cadiz, Spain

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

Cadiz, Spain

6. Aeolian Islands, Italy

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

Aeolian Islands, Italy

5. Tetouan, Morocco

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

Tetouan, Morocco

4. Dubrovnik, Croatia

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

Dubrovnik, Croatia

3. Corsica, France

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

Calvi Corsica, France

2. Haifa, Israel

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

Baha'i Gardens Haifa, Israel

1. Evia, Greece

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

Evia, Greece