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

The 6 Craziest Christmas Displays Around the World

‘Tis that time of the year again when home and business owners go completely over the top with Christmas lights and displays. With the passing of each year it seems there is an unspoken competition with oneself to top last years displays and visitors are constantly delighted with new innovative and interactive Christmas displays. All over the world this tradition takes place, although most notably in the United States where some entire towns transform their houses, buildings and streets. From inflatable characters to dressed up dolls to millions of lights and robots, here are six absolutely crazy over-the-top Christmas displays around the world:

6. Garabedian Family Christmas House -Pelham Gardens, New York

It is known to many as “The Christmas House” and once pulling up to this house, you will understand why. It is one of the craziest Christmas displays in all of America. There is a traditional nativity scene of course but along with that comes nearly 200 animated figures, all dressed up in old-school Hollywood-style gowns. These figures dance to upbeat holiday music all night long. Think Disney princesses, occulted angels, and dolls dolls and more dolls. The Garabedian family is in the fashion business throughout the year but it is the holiday season when they really get to work, having to assemble and take down the dolls each and every single night (weather depending). Although other houses in the neighborhood are decorated, this is a must to anyone looking for a unique, crazy Christmas display.

Photo by: Business Insider
Photo by: Business Insider

5. Richmond, Virginia

The city’s mayor has deemed Richmond as the “tacky lights capital of the world”, whether that makes this city more attractive to future residents or not, they have some of the craziest Christmas displays in the world. The Tacky Light Tour has been created here, a registry that lists houses with more than 40,000 lights that people can visit. A tacky Light Tour is a trip made by family and friends from one insanely decorated home or business to the next in the city of Richmond and here people go all out, even renting a limousine to ride in. Expect timed musical lights, giant inflatable characters, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus and more than 70 million lights in total.

Photo by: Abby Pie Photography
Photo by: Abby Pie Photography

4. Jamaica Estates, New York

This property is so massive it takes up an entire block and owner Anthony Gurino has made it his mission to celebrate Christmas to the extreme. Not only is this property fun to look at but the house is also interactive. Included here is a coffee and hot chocolate station, free cookies for all and holiday music playing. Expect to see carolers, donation boxes and sometimes even Santa and Mrs. Claus show up and pay a visit to unsuspecting visitors. The wires are covered so walking through the property is easy and there are plenty of benches for you to sit on for the incredible photo opportunities. Make sure to get close to the windows to see the incredible displays inside as well. From flashing lights to reindeer on the roof to more colors than you can imagine, this is one light display you wont want to miss.

Photo by: Christmas In Jamaica Estates
Photo by: Christmas In Jamaica Estates

3. Policarpio Street -Mandaluyong, Philippines

This street screams Christmas, despite the obvious lack of snow as a collection of neighbors have made it their collective goal to decorate their houses to the extreme to celebrate the holiday season. Millions of sparkling lights seem to cover every inch of the houses while rooftops and gardens are adorning with figures, toys, holiday décor and nativity scenes. The House of Santa Claus is worth checking out as it boasts the largest Santa Claus collection in Metro Manila. From twinkling lights to neon strands to food stalls that line the street to fill your belly with goodness, Policarpio turns into a whimsical Christmas village for the entire month of December.

Photo by: PhotoBento
Photo by: PhotoBento

2. Hyatt Extreme Christmas -Plantation, Florida

The Hyatt family has taken things to the extreme when it comes to Christmas displays and although the city of Plantation does not support this cause and has even threatened fines of up to $7,000, for now this house is completely decked out and the tradition continues. Think snow-blowing machines, a whopping 200,000 lights, visits from Santa and his live reindeer, a movie screen showing holiday films, a Ferris Wheel of stuffed animals and endless moving characters. Starting preparations in August, this family and its team adds new excitement every year including a complete Santa’s workshop, M&M candy disco and 24-foot sign celebrating the magic of Christmas.

Photo by: Hyatt Extreme Christmas
Photo by: Hyatt Extreme Christmas



1. Robolights -Palm Springs, California

This sci-fi holiday spectacle has been tradition since 1986, when Kenny Irwin Jr. decided to do something a little different for the holidays. This year-round event can be viewed from the street but Christmas time is when Robolights really comes alive. Free to the public, with donations accepted there are millions of lights that twinkle in some pretty epic sci-fi ways. This landscape of art includes Nuclear Elves in the tennis court while Santa’s sleigh (or battle wagon as it’s referred to) is pulled by 12 robotic reindeer. Think wise men laden with microwaves, robots standing over 50 feet tall, animal heads on toilet seats, solid colored rooms and more alien like art. The property is over 4 acres and provides more unusual and crazy looking things than you have ever imagined, and all lit up in Christmas lights.

Photo by: Robolights
Photo by: Robolights

The 6 Worst Luxury Hotel Openings

Luxury Travel Intelligence (LTI), a members-only luxury travel organization aimed at high rollers and those with deep pockets has released their annual list of the Worst Luxury Hotel Openings of 2015. While most of us would probably give our right arm for a chance to stay in these high end establishments, the company described many of the properties to make this years list as underwhelming and disenchanting. Maybe they’re being a little harsh or perhaps you just come to expect certain things when paying these kind of nightly rates… either way, here are the six worst luxury hotel openings of 2015:

6. Lanesborough, London

The 5 star, 93-room Lanesborough Hotel was re-opened this year in central London after being closed for renovations since December 2013. The renovations cost a reported £80 million, but bucking the trend for simplistic, pared-down style hasn’t won them any praise.

Photo by: Luxury Hotel Experts
Photo by: Luxury Hotel Experts

5. EDITION, Miami Beach

The Mariott/Ian Schrager owned EDITION Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida was closed for renovations for nearly four years and officially re-opened at the beginning of 2015. After that kind of time, you expect it to have been worth the wait, but according to reports, it lands on this year’s luxury worst list as a result of terrible service.

Photo by: Edition Hotels
Photo by: Edition Hotels

4. Zaya Nurai, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s Zaya Nurai Island resort touts itself as “the most sought-after luxury beach resort” according to the resort website, but finds itself in the number four spot on this years worst luxury hotel opening list. Reports say the hotel just isn’t on par with the amazing beauty of it’s island location.

Photo by: Expedia
Photo by: Expedia

3. St. Regis, Mumbai

Coming in third is the St. Regis Hotel in Mumbai, India. Normally a very highly regarded hotel brand, this St. Regis property seems to have landed itself on this years worst luxury hotel list as a result of “a rushed and badly executed takeover of an existing (and troubled) property – The Palladium” reports LTI.

Photo by: CNN Traveler
Photo by: CNN Traveler

2. Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok, Mauritius

The Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort on the East African island of Mauritius re-opened in November of this year after an extensive 6 month renovation. Despite these efforts to upgrade, LTI named the property as #2 on this years list due to customer reports of “poor service and inadequate staff training plus a distinct impression that management is not present.”

Photo by: CPP Luxury
Photo by: CPP Luxury

1. Nobu, Manilla

Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro won’t be please to see his Manila, Philippines property ranked as this years number one worst luxury hotel opening of 2015. The American Actor co-owns the Nobu Hotel with chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Hollywood producer Meir Teper. While the 312-room City of Dreams property only opened in May of this year, reports say the 5-star hotel underwhelms at every turn and LTI reports “some questionable developments and over expansion.”

Philippines New Casino

11 Islands That Look Like Other Things

When viewed from above there are hundreds of islands that look like shapes, animals and objects. What they have in common is the ability to stand out among so many in their unique features. From hearts to dolphins to a penis shaped island, there is fun to be had discovering what islands can really look like if you use your imagination. From uninhabited islands to groups of islands, here are our favorite 11 islands that look a whole lot like other things.

11. Spratly Islands, Asia

The Spratly Islands are a disputed group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea and one just happens to look exactly like a boomerang. The islands here have no indigenous inhabitants, but offer rich fishing grounds and may contain significant oil and natural gas reserves, which is why these islands are in hot dispute. There are actually only four square kilometers of land with six countries staking territorial claims and the vast majority of these islands are uninhabited, closed military bases or off-limits to casual visitors. The best way to take in the shape of the boomerang is to fly directly over it, but depending on the season and flow of current, it doesn’t always resemble its shape.

Photo by: Storm Crypt's Flickr photostream via cogitASIA
Photo by: Storm Crypt’s Flickr photostream via cogitASIA

10. Tasmania, Australia

It is the first of two islands that are shaped like hearts and the heart island of Tasmania is located about 150 miles south of the Australian mainland. It is one of the most romantic places on earth with its white sandy beaches, beautiful lakes, fishing villages, rugged mountain peaks and breathtaking coasts. It makes complete sense that indeed this island than should be shaped like a heart. Boasting some of the cleanest air in the world, along with a spellbinding landscape, and just under half a million friendly locals; this island deserves to be looked at from both above and on the ground. Whether you are looking to relax on the beach or fly through the mountains, visitors certainly won’t be bored here.

Photo by: NASA via Why Files
Photo by: NASA via Why Files

9. Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, Portugal

This small paradise when looked at from above truly looks like a slice of pizza, with a huge pepperoni slice smack dab in the middle. The islet is a result of the crater of a submerged volcano and an almost perfectly round lake at the center is linked to the sea by a narrow channel. It is located offshore of the larger island of São Miguel. It is actually one of São Miguel’s main tourist attractions, especially since an event in the Red Bull Cliff Diving world championship was held here. It’s crystal clear waters and the small but lovely beach are excellent for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling and diving. It was once open all year round, but now the islet can only be visited during the high season, between June and September, during which a special boat service takes passengers from Vila Franca to the islet on a daily basis.

Photo by: Amusing Planet
Photo by: Amusing Planet

8. Crocodile Island, Philippines

The Philippines are known for their crocodiles and it should come as no surprise that they not only have an island shaped like one but the actual name of the island is Crocodile Island. This island is located near the popular beach destination Boracay and takes just 20 minutes to reach by boat. The most popular activities here are scuba diving and sailing due to the abundance of marine life. Currents can sometimes be strong in the area but this island is recommended for divers of all experience. Expect to see schools of colorful fish, moray eels, sea snakes and fan corals here. Visitors won’t likely step foot on the island; instead they will dive or snorkel right off the boat that brings you here. In recent years the corals have been damaged and snorkeling isn’t as good as it once was.

Photo by: Panoramio
Photo by: Panoramio

7. Guishan Island, Taiwan

This island is actually a volcano and just so happens to be the only active volcano in Taiwan. It also most definitely resembles a turtle with its head peaking out of the water. This island has a few claims to fame including being the largest and only island with residents in the Yilan County. Tourists love to come visit this island but in order to preserve it, the number of tourists is controlled and you must apply to come here before visiting. One of the main draws to the island is the whale watching opportunities and the marine life viewing on the island, even though there are large amounts of sulfur and acid in the air. The coastal views alone are worth visiting for and make sure to view it from a distance to get the full turtle shape experience.

Photo by: Panoramio
Photo by: Panoramio

6. Mavuva Island, Fiji

Sweeping beaches, crystal clear waters and lots for sale at a great price makes this island seem like a dream come true. There is only one unfortunate thing about it; it has a very…phallic shape to it. The 42-acre private island is located off the northern coast of Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu. It has been carved into 97 lots that are up for sale and a beachfront clubhouse, restaurant, bar and organic garden are all part of the development. The island sits in protected coral lagoon and is home to an abundance of marine life. Although many will find building a dream home here on this male genitalia-shaped island, offensive; others snap up the bargain lots on this phallus-shaped island.

Photo by: Distractify
Photo by: Distractify

5. Molokini Island, Hawaii

This crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater that forms a small islet just happens to look just like a crescent moon. This carefully protected Marine Life Conservation District is also a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary. It is considered one of Hawaii’s premier dive spots as the unusual shape protects divers and snorkelers from strong currents and large waves. What awaits divers is crystal clear waters teeming with over 250 species of fish and the chance to see the gentle gigantic whale sharks. More experienced divers can head to the underwater wall area down 70 feet while beginners can dive 35 feet into the crater basin. Visitors aren’t actually allowed to walk on the island and fish are not allowed to be caught.

Photo by: Islands
Photo by: Islands

4. Dilumacad Island, Philippines

This island found in El Nido, Palawan catches the eyes of many due to its unusual shape. When viewed from a distance the limestone cliffs resemble the shape of a helicopter, without the propeller. The island is home to a beautiful white sand beach that stretches some 300 meters as well as dark green rainforests and towering cliffs. At the northern side of the island there is an amazing underwater tunnel and the southern edge gives way to a fringing reef. Many island hopping tourists find paradise on this amazing island and choose to picnic of the long stretch of sand, while relaxing in the shining sun.

Photo by: When On Earth
Photo by: When On Earth

3. Sirenuse, Italy

Known as Li Galli or Sirenuse, the dolphin-shaped archipelago is located off the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, between the Isle of Capri and the village of Positano. Sirenuse got its name after the Greek mythology’s Sirens who were believed to have visited the islands frequently tempted Ulysses on his way back home with their enchanting voices. The island has had many owners and most recently was bought by Giovanni Russo, a Sorrento hotelier who spent 15 years and millions of dollars restoring it. Besides using it as a private residence, Russo has also made the villas available for private rental and employs a staff and a launch to take guests to and from the mainland. Although members of the public cannot land here, they are welcome to swim in the surrounding waters.

Photo by: Panoramio
Photo by: Panoramio

2. Isabela Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

Isabela Island is considered the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago with an area of 4,640 square meters and the youngest among other islands as it was only formed about one million years ago. This island truly looks exactly like a seahorse and there is no second guessing what it is when looked at from above. Isabela Island is home to about 1,800 residents who make their living by fishing, farming and tourism. Visitors to the island love to watch the 16 species of whales that live nearby and dive into the waters with sea lions, sharks, stingrays and more at one of seven dive spots located off the shores. Another interesting fact about this large island is that it is home to more wild tortoises than all the other islands combined, with a separate species on each volcano.

Photo by: Earth Observatory via Tales Maze
Photo by: Earth Observatory via Tales Maze

1. Tavarua, Fiji

This teeny tiny island in Fiji is shaped like a perfect heart, ringed with white sand beaches and surrounded by a coral reef. Measuring only 29 acres in size, it is hard to believe that Fiji’s most iconic surf resort is here. This spot has been visited for a long time by surfers who journey here to catch world-class waves, although it wasn’t until 1982 when the island was truly discovered. There is no shortage of activities to do here including swimming, surfing, kayaking, sport fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling. The resort is made up of six cabins and visitors rave about the friendly local staff, great food and incredible surfing spots.

Photo by: Official Website of Tourism Fiji
Photo by: Tourism Fiji

Top 10 Tropical Islands You Have to Visit

There is something about a tropical Island that can turn even the most stressed out, overworked person into a relaxed and rejuvenated individual. Unlike taking a rushed weekend trip to a crowded beach nearby and staying in a chain hotel, the lure of a small resort surrounded by palm trees and clear blue water is a dream many people have. The Islands and beautiful beaches in Asia are some of the very best in the world and offer visitors everything from small secluded resorts on white sand beaches to social tourist hot spots with a party atmosphere. No matter what, you’ll be able to find an island that caters to your needs giving you a great experience with prices that will make your friends jealous. Quit dreaming and start planning that trip of a lifetime cause we’ve compiled an easy list of recommendations for the best tropical islands in Asia!

10. Tioman Island, Malaysia

Located in the South China Sea, a 40 minute flight from the capital of Kuala Lumpur, this 29,000 acre island offers coral reefs and clear water. Here you have the option of a simple hotel located in a seaside village or a resort on a secluded beach. Spend your time on the island jungle trekking seeing the exotic wildlife like monitor lizards and monkeys or visiting one of the many waterfalls. You can check out one of the villages and get to know the locals, do some duty free shopping or spend some time on the 18-hole golf course. Of course you are never far away from the beaches. Whether you like scuba diving, snorkeling or just reclining in a beach chair with a cool drink, the beaches are only a few steps away. Unlike some of the more crowded destinations, Tioman Island can be your relaxing trip of a lifetime.

Tioman Island

9. Panglao Island, Philippines

Unlike the more famous island of Boracay, Panglao Island is less crowded and less of a party atmosphere. Located off the Southwestern tip of Bohol connected by a bridge, the island is a great place for families and couples to relax and enjoy the laid back island life. Boats line up on the beach daily for island hopping and dolphin watching excursions. Nature preserves, cave tours and the UNESCO listed Chocolate Hills are easy day tours. Another great place to visit is the Philippine Tarsier Foundation where 331 acres have been set aside for the research and protection of the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest mammals in the world. Ecotourism, world heritage sites and beautiful white sand beaches make this Island one of our top picks and one you should definitely visit.

Panglao Island, Philippines

8. Akajima Island, Japan

An Island belonging to the Kerama Islands group in Okinawa, Aka Island can be reached by a one hour high speed ferry from the capital of Okinawa. Popular with Japanese tourists you won’t find many foreigners here. Visit the beautiful Nishibama Beach a one km stretch of white beach on the northeast coast, enjoy humpback whale watching, snorkeling and diving. Aka Island is popular with marine biologists due to the diversity of sea life and coral reefs. While most tourists visit on a day trip there are a few hotels and hostels where you can stay and relax for a few days. A small island, it is easily explored on foot. You might even catch a glimpse of the famed Kerala deer which swim between the islands. If you are looking for a quiet place to enjoy nature and get away from the crowds, Aka Island is a good choice.

Photo by: Jordy Meow via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Jordy Meow via Wikimedia Commons

7. Efate, Vanuatu

Efate has been the site of three international versions of the popular “Survivor” television show. Efate is Vanuatu’s third largest island and the most populous. With Eco tours, adventure activities such as jungle zip lines, scuba and snorkeling, markets and nightlife, it is no wonder Efate is a popular destination. For a glimpse of what ancestral islanders lived like, a visit to the Ekasup cultural village is a must. Learn firsthand from the village chief and his warriors about how it was when cannibalism was the order of the day. Visit the tranquil Mele Cascades waterfalls, take a volcano tour by air or enjoy one of the island’s beaches. There are also several fishing charters available if you’re looking to land the big one. There are several day tours available, water parks and various water sport activities to make your trip more memorable. Accommodations range from luxurious resorts and spas to budget hotels.

Efate, Vanuatu

6. Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, named after famed British explorer Captain James Cook, who visited the islands in 1773. Rarotonga has everything you would expect to find on a tropical island. Crystal clear blue lagoons, little traffic except for an island bus and some scooters, bone white beaches and coral reefs. Inland you will find a rugged tropical landscape teeming with wildlife and terraces where bananas, coconuts and pineapples are planted. The island is known for its beautiful white coral and limestone churches. If you happen to visit one for Sunday services don’t be surprised if you are invited to stay after for refreshments. A market day happens every Saturday where you can sample local food and buy some souvenirs. There is also a golf course, fishing expeditions and numerous diving sites to enjoy. With no streetlights, friendly people and beautiful beaches you may not ever want to leave.

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

5. The Maldives, South Asia

A tropical nation, the Maldives is made up of 26 coral atolls. Located in the Indian Ocean. You can take your pick of resort islands, private islands, city hotels or a cozy guest house. Scuba diving, golf and island hopping await you on what could be the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy dolphin and whale watching, take a day trip to one of the uninhabited islands for a private getaway, enjoy local food or spend the day shopping. For divers, a wreck dive at the site of the Maldives Victory, is a definite must do. A 60 meter long cargo wreck lying 20-30 meters deep is where you can explore the cargo holds and check out the sea life. Accommodations range from budget friendly, cottages perched on stilts over the water and super luxurious resorts. Spend your days diving, exploring the city of Male or relaxing on the beach. When nighttime comes, head out to one of the resort bars or take a walk on the beach,but beware the crabs tend to enjoy the beaches at night also.


4. Ambergris Caye, Belize

The largest island in Belize can be reached by plane or ferry. Besides having some fantastic beaches, Ambergris is home to the Belize Barrier Reef which is the second largest reef in the world second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. While diving, snorkeling and fishing are some of the main attractions you should also visit the Marco Gonzalez Maya site. There are over 19 sites on the island, but none had ever been preserved until 2009 when efforts to begin preservation started. The site is now a national reserve that has a visitor area along with continuing excavations. Relax on the beaches, dive the reefs or just sit and enjoy the atmosphere at one of the many beach bars on the island at the end of the day.

Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes

3. Tahiti, French Polynesia

What would a list of the best tropical islands be without including Tahiti? The largest island in French Polynesia, Tahiti is another island on one of Captain James Cook’s travels. Tahiti also known as the “Queen of the Pacific” has been visited at one time or another by Spanish explorers, British explorers to include Captain Bligh and the HMS Bounty, French explorers, the Viceroy of Peru, whalers from Australia and missionaries from all over. They must have known something, and that is, Tahiti is a beautiful place. You can enjoy professional surfing competitions, several festivals throughout the year or if you’re brave enough – get a traditional Polynesian tattoo. You’ll have to spend time at one of the nature parks, enjoy the watersports, take a boat tour, visit some of the historical sites or just enjoy the beaches, Tahiti can be a dream vacation.

Tahiti, French Polynesia

2. Koh Lipe, Thailand

Thailand used to be a place where you could find secluded beaches and islands with little or no tourists. Recent movies, travel blogs and press have made Thailand more popular than ever. There is one place that you can still get away from the majority of the tourists and enjoy a tranquil tropical paradise. Koh Lipe is an island located on the southern part of the Thai Andaman Sea accessible by boat from either Bangkok or Malaysia. There are several beaches and nearby uninhabited islands reachable by long boat. Rent a long boat for a day trip and go island hopping where you can lounge on a deserted beach or go snorkeling on Sunrise Beach and get up close to schools of fish. Come watch the sunset on the beach or visit one of the island bars but don’t tell anyone, Koh Lipe is our secret.

Koh Lipe, Thailand

1. Bali, Indonesia

Bali is an island and province in Indonesia, also the country’s largest tourist destination. Bali offers coral reefs and dive sites, surfing, vibrant nightlife and activities for singles, couples and families. The majority of the population is Hindu and there are several temples worth visiting. Goa Lawah Temple or the Bat Cave as it is known as a popular destination along with Tanah Lot temple which sits on a rock and is completely surrounded by water during high tide. Go white water rafting, visit the waterpark or one of the nature reserves, go hiking, learn to scuba dive, surf or just enjoy the hospitality of the Balinese people. Bali is a large island with lots to see and do so if you plan to visit give yourself time to really experience and enjoy the island, and no, we won’t call your boss for you and tell him you won’t be back to work on time.

Bali, Indonesia

10 Best Places to Learn to Dive the PADI Way

If you want to learn to dive the first thing you need to do is locate a reputable dive instructor. The gold standard in dive education is PADI which stands for: The Professional Association of Diving Instructors. PADI is the world’s leading scuba diving training organization and has courses for ages eight and up with certification courses for those age 10 and up. You can locate PADI-certified instructors and facilities in landlocked cities, YMCA’s and dive shops all over the world. If you are going to learn to dive why not do it in a place that you will always remember and take some time to also enjoy the surroundings. When planning your next vacation, why not also learn to scuba dive and give yourself another reason to look forward to that next adventure. We have compiled a list of some of the best places on earth to learn to scuba dive the PADI way while also experiencing a great vacation.

10. The Bahamas

The Bahamas is a popular destination and easily accessible for most Americans. There are several dive centers on the island including Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas. Stuart was a stunt diver in the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only”. After earning a reputation as a top-notch underwater stunt coordinator, he saved his money and in 1987 bought a dive boat. Subsequent stints in various resorts and his role as the go-to film underwater coordinator led Stuart to open a dive center. Offering various PADI certification classes and divemaster courses Stuart also takes certified divers on shark dives, has a kid’s certification course, and even has an underwater wedding venue if you want to have the wedding experience of a lifetime. When not diving, the Bahamas offers great beaches, nightlife, boating, fishing, the world’s deepest blue hole, and the third-largest reef in the world. A wild horse preserve, various nature preserves, and great weather. What more could you ask for?

9. Scotland

Scotland you say? Scotland doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you think of scuba diving. For wreck divers, those that enjoy exploring sunken vessels and such, then Scotland is the perfect choice to learn to dive. Scapa Scuba is located in Orkney and the only dive shop in the area. Courses in open water diving, rescue diving and more are offered. One reason Scotland is an ideal place is that at the end of WW1, in 1919,  the German Navy scuttled 52 ships at Scapa Flow and this makes for what is today one of the world’s best wreck dives. When not diving, explore some of the Neolithic remains in the area that date back over 5,000 years, a cathedral founded by Vikings or visit some of the nearby towns.

8. Greece

Roy Pedersen / Shutterstock.com

Learning to dive in Greece has two advantages, the opportunity to learn to dive while enjoying the Aegean Sea and, well, the fact that you’re in Greece. One of the places you can learn to dive is the Atlantis Diving Center, located in the Halkidiki region. The Halkidiki region is in the Northern part of Greece and consists of three peninsulas jutting out into the Aegean Sea. Here the dive sites offer underwater caves, reefs and a variety of sea life. When not diving you can visit unique historical sites such as Mount Athos which holds monasteries and has been continuously inhabited for 1800 years. Visiting Mount Athos is restricted to a certain number of visitors per day, males only and special permission has to be obtained. The city of Thessaloniki is nearby and offers a mix of old-world charm with modern city.

7. Spain

Victor Maschek / Shutterstock

Costa del Sol is known for luxurious resorts and hotels, beautiful beaches, fine dining, and vibrant nightlife. Simply Diving, in Malaga Spain, has been operating in the area since 1999 and has a cadre of international instructors. The 5-star dive center has classes ranging from beginner to night diver, underwater photography, divemaster, and instructor training. Some of the dive sites visited are Gibraltar, the site of war vessel wreckage, and La Costa Tropical, Europe’s first-ever National Marine Park. When you’re not diving you can enjoy any of the popular tourist destinations in Spain. If you want to escape the tourist areas for a few days then head inland and visit one of the many small villages and towns where you can enjoy hiking and cycling through the countryside surrounded by olive groves and fields.

6. Peru

Fotos593 / Shutterstock

Located in the northwestern part of Peru, the town of Mancora is a popular beach resort destination and home to the Spondylus Dive Center. Spondylus was the first PADI-certified dive school in Peru and has all types of courses for children and adults. Popular dives include El Ñuro Beach where you can get up close to different marine life such as sea turtles, octopus, moray eels and different species of fish. Abandoned oil platforms have turned into artificial reefs and make for a unique experience also. For those that just want to have a fun day, a snorkeling tour can be arranged. Also, a day trip to the nearby Amotape Hills National Park provides the opportunity to do some river rafting and hiking. Mancora, known for being a popular beach and surf destination, has been likened to some of the popular Thailand beaches before they became overcrowded with tourists.

5. Guatemala

Simon Dannhauer / Shutterstock

When you sit back and hear other divers talk about where they got certified you may hear of a tropical beach paradise, but you can have a different story. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is off the beaten path for tourists and is one of the best-kept secrets among travelers. Surrounded by colorful Mayan villages the lake is located in the highlands and is the deepest lake in Central America. Formed by volcanic eruptions the region is part of the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean. ATI Divers run courses at the lake where you can dive among volcanic formations such as cliffs and overhangs. When you’re not diving you can experience the non-commercialized area of authentic Mayan villages where the women still wear traditional dress. Take a couple of day tours while you are there and you will have a story to tell about where you got dive certified.

4. India

UnderTheSea / Shutterstock

India has a coastline of over 7,000 km so the chances of finding a good dive instructor are pretty good. One of the best places to learn to dive and also have a great vacation is the Andaman Islands located in the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar. Dive India offer courses from open water to instructor training. Diving among pristine reefs while also offering dives to locations far off the beaten path, Dive India is a good choice to learn to scuba dive. During your downtime, you can learn a little about the history of the area. A popular destination is the Cellular Jail in Port Blair. The jail was built by colonial British and used to house political prisoners during the era. You can also take an island hopping tour, or just enjoy the many beaches.

3. The Philippines

paul cowell / Shuttestock

The Philippines is comprised of over 7,000 islands so you might think they have a few places to learn to dive and you would be right. With all of the places and options, the prices for learning how to dive have a wide range. One of the cheapest places is also one of the best places. Dumaguete is located in the province of Negros Oriental, the largest city in the province. Liquid Dumaguete is a 5-star PADI resort that not only offers courses but runs a resort on location. Why Dumaguete for diving? The reason is that it’s close to APO Island which is probably the most famous and best diving site in the region. Hard corals, schools of fish, sea turtles and an abundance of other sea life are encountered. Other popular dive site destinations are also available. The other reason Dumaguete is a great location is when you’re not diving the city awaits with all the hospitality of the Filipino people.

2. Thailand

Soren Egeberg Photography / Shutterstock.com

Thailand, the home of crystal clear blue water, white sand beaches and wild parties. Thailand is also the home to some of the best diving in Asia. Located on Koh Tao Island you will find the Crystal Dive Resort one of only a few 5-star PADI certified dive shops in the region. From beginner courses, refresher courses, and specialized training, Crystal Dive Resort offers everything you need to get certified. With 16 dive sites around the island you can experience all types of diving. You may want to take a day dive to Shark Island where you could spot reef and leopard sharks. Don’t want to encounter a shark? You might want to try the area around the Japanese Gardens where there is little current and a fairly shallow reef populated with various tropical fish. Being an island, the majority of activities revolve around diving, hanging out on the beach, or fishing, but there is always the nightlife. After spending the day diving you might want to take a plunge into the famous Thai nightlife.

1. Australia

Australia is home to the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living thing on earth. Selected as a World Heritage Site and visible from outer space the Great Barrier Reef is undoubtedly the most famous dive spot in the world. Where better to earn your PADI certification and also have the chance to see and experience such a wonder? From 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises to the more than 1500 species of fish, this is why Australia is our number one pick.  Various sea turtles and coral species make for what has to be the most memorable dive of a lifetime. Pro Dive in Cairns is a 5-star PADI dive center and has been in operation since 1983. Pro Dive offers all the classes needed to get certified and for the more experienced, they have extended dive tours. Using their state-of-the-art dive vessels that have Wi-Fi onboard and comfortable quarters you can have an extended trip of three to seven days and hit all the great dive spots. Cairns is considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef but its tropical climate and laid-back atmosphere also make for a great vacation destination.

10 Must-See Churches Around the World

While churches are regarded primarily as places of worship, they have also been long treated throughout history as the centers of cultural and social activity within a community.  This especially rings true of the hundreds of centuries-old parishes, cathedrals and basilicas  scattered around the world that today stand testament to not only the religious commitment of worshipers, but also to the social and artistic progression of our civilization.  Ranging from medieval Gothic Cathedrals to rare Expressionist Parishes, and whether with religious or artistic inclination, here are 10 churches worth checking out (and gawking over!) on your next international adventure.

10. St. Augustine Church, Philippines

This active parish was built of coral stone and bricks in 1717 and can be found in Paoay, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. Commonly known as Paoay Church, the building is also an example of “Earthquake Baroque,” which, exactly as it sounds, is an architectural term coined to describe the modified Baroque-style rebuilding in places that experienced destructive earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries. The most noticeable characteristic of this style is the use of large buttresses on the back and sides of the building (which can be seen at Paoay Church at about 5.5 ft thick) to guard against future earthquake destruction. Also making this site unique is the adjacent coral bell tower, built in 1793 and rising 3-storeys above ground level, used historically as an observation post in several conflicts.

St. Augustine Church, Philippines

9. Salzburg Cathedral, Austria

The site of this Roman Catholic Cathedral in Salzburg, Austria has endured centuries of fires, reconstructions and consecrations (774, 1628 and 1959) with the current building displaying a stunning example of early Baroque architecture designed by Santino Solari. The majestic exterior is quite a sight to behold as it rises above the Old Town cityscape, but it is the interior that is truly awe-inspiring, with the sepia-and white walls adorned by murals, a 4,000-pipe main organ and cathedral portals made my Scheider-Manzell, Mataré and Manzu. Also to be found here are Mozart’s baptismal font, and an exhibition of the excavation of the old, Romanesque cathedral.

Salzburg Cathedral, Austria

8. Bedkhem Church, Iran

Also known as Bethlehem Church and Beyt Lahm Church, this Armenian Apostolic Church was built in 1627 in the Isfahani architectural style (traditional Persian-Iranian). Located in the Julfa quarter of Ishafan, Iran, it was built by Armenian merchant Khaje Petros, to whom an inscription is now found on the south portal of the structure. Though famous for its gilded domes and historic architecture, it is the 72 paintings found within that account for the exquisite beauty of the church, depicting the life of Christ in two rows of masterpieces by notable Armenian artists.

Bethlehem Church, Iran

7. Kizhi Pogost, Russia

Located on a narrow island strip on Lake Onega, Kizhi Pogost, known alternatively as the Church of Transfiguration, is a 37 meter tall structure made entirely of wood, using scribe-fitted horizontal logs joined with interlocking corners (no nails!). The alter was laid in 1714, after the previous church here was struck by lightning, with the updated design providing more efficient ventilation and contributing to its preservation till this day. There is also an aura of legend around the site, with rumor stating that the head builder used only one axe for the entire project, and upon completion chucked it into the lake, exclaiming, “there was not and will not be another one to match it.”

Ilona5555 / Shutterstock.com
Ilona5555 / Shutterstock.com

6. Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark

This amazing example of Expressionist architecture created by chief architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint and completed by his son, Kaare Klint in 1940 is a Lutheran Church built to commemorate the Danish priest, poet and reformer N.F.S. Grundtvig. Located in the Bispebjerg district in Copenhagen, the most notable exterior feature is the west façade, standing 49 meters tall and resembling the exterior of a church organ. Also quite famous is the interior, which with high, vaulted ceilings and simplistic décor, evokes an atmosphere of tranquility despite the size of the space and the imposing design of the outer façade.

Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark

5. St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary

As Budapest’s largest church, St. Stephen’s Basilica can hold up to 8,500 people simultaneously, and provides a panoramic view of the city from the Cupola. A prime example of Neoclassical architecture, the building took over 5 decades to complete, (due primarily to political conflict and structural issues) and changed builders several times before being completed in 1906 by Jozsef Krauser. The ornate interior is truly a site to behold with stained glass windows designed by Miksa Roth and a considerable amount of frescoes, statues and mosaics throughout.  Also to be seen here is the “most precious treasure of Hungary,” the mummified right fist of King Stephen, for whom the Basilica is named.

St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary

4. Sagrada Familia, Spain

This “Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family” occupying a 12,800 square meter plot of land in the center of Barcelona remains incomplete till this day. Initial construction began on St. Joseph’s day (March 19) in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano who later resigned due to disagreements and passed the project to Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s vision for the Temple, besides being a place of worship was to “artistically represent the truths of religion and the Glorification of God and His Saints” a concept clearly explored when he abandoned the previously drafted Neo-Gothic design in favor of a more “monumental” design of his own innovation. We see it today in the symbolism of the structure, with each of the 18 towers specifically representing Christ, the Gospels, the Virgin Mary and the 12 Apostles, and the verticality of the structure itself representing elevation towards God.

Sagrada Familia, Spain
Byelikova Oksana / Shutterstock.com

3. Milan Cathedral, Italy

This spectacular architectural feat standing 108.5 meters tall took over 500 years to complete, and was the life work of many architects, master builders and financial backers. Originally commissioned by bishop Antonio da Saluzzo in 1385 and funded by 1st Duke of Milan, Glan Galeazzo Visconti, who had visions of creating the largest church in the world (he wasn’t far off, it is currently the 2nd largest Gothic cathedral in the world), the cathedral was consecrated in 1418 when the nave was undergoing just the beginnings of construction. Today, after several restorations and final additions, the structure is amazingly uniform in its Gothic design, with nave columns reaching 24.5 meters in height and the some 135 spires linked with flying buttresses. The Cathedral is adorned with about 3,400 statues, progressing in style from Gothic to Art Deco, and public access is available to the rooftop providing unparalleled views of the surrounding city.

Milan Cathedral, Italy

2. Westminster Abbey, England

While this is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most famous historical attractions, it is also one of the world’s best examples of Medieval Gothic architecture, albeit with an English twist. This is most evident in the intricacies of the northern façade (tourist entrance) and in the extremely expansive vaulted ceilings of the interior (the highest Gothic vault in England, at 102 ft) made to look even taller by narrow single aisles.  Today, the Abbey is neither a Cathedral nor a parish church (as it had been throughout history) but rather a “Royal Peculiar” subject only to the Sovereign, and is the site of every British coronation since 1066 as well as the final resting place of a number of notable historical figures.

Westminster Abbey, England

1. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

Rising 100 meters above the bottom of the Guaitara River Canyon, near Nariño, Ipiales in Colombia, the Gothic revival basilica—which is built in-to the rocky cliff on one side, and connects via bridge to the opposite side—looks more like the inspiration for a Disney castle than a Sanctuary. The present day structure was built from 1916-1949, with a history dating back to 1754 when, during a storm, Maria Muences’ deaf-mute daughter exclaimed that she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary over the “laja” (name for flat sedimentary rock similar to shale) after-which she was cured of her afflictions. The first shrine to the “Lady of Las Lajas” was built at this site in the 18th Century and has since been upgraded to what we see today. The sanctuary was authorized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1951 and declared a minor basilica 3 years later.

Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

10 Things to See and Do in Cebu, Philippines

Cebu is one of the islands that comprises the country of the Philippines and also home to the city that bears the same name. Cebu City is the second largest city in the Philippines and a favorite tourist spot for foreigners and Filipinos alike. Cebu city is considered to be the oldest settlement in the Philippines established by the Spaniards. Cebu City is host to the annual Sinulog Festival honoring the patron Saint of the area Santo Nino. Pristine white beaches, excellent diving and snorkeling along with the opportunity to visit many cultural and historical sites all combine to offer tourists the perfect getaway.

10. 1730 Jesuit House

Located on a non-descript side street inside an operating warehouse, lies the oldest house in the Philippines. The current owner, who operates the hardware warehouse, bought it from a family that had owned it since the late 1900’s. Named the 1730 Jesuit House by a visiting Franciscan archivist in the early 1900’s. A coin from the Ming Dynasty, along with other artifacts found at the house suggest the home is much older and was possibly the home a Chinese merchant. Artifacts, document and old photographs are in the home which is now a museum and can be toured by buying a ticket at the warehouse.

Photo by: Museo Parian sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House
Photo by: Museo Parian sa Sugbo 1730 Jesuit House

9. Yap San Diego Ancestral House

Built sometime in the 1700’s by a Chinese merchant, the house is an example of what life was like in early Cebu. Hand carved furniture and antiques along with old pottery cooking utensils adorn the inside of the home. The roof of the house is 95 percent original and the old wooden staircase going up to the second floor shows where people for generations have ascended the stairs. The current owner is a well known choreographer in the Philippines. While he and his family still use the home on weekends you can visit any seven days of the week for a nominal fee.

Photo by: Constantine Agustin via Flickr
Photo by: Constantine Agustin via Flickr

8. Magellan Shrine

The Magellan Shrine is located on Mactan Island, adjacent to Cebu City. During the battle of Mactan in 1521. Magellan led a 49 man attack force to subdue Lapu-Lapu the local Chief and put the area under his control. What Magellan didn’t figure on were 1500 warriors who quickly killed Magellan and most of his crew. The Shrine is erected on the spot where the battle took place and next to the monument stands an impressive statue of Lapu-Lapu ever ready to repel aggressors. A small garden and plaza along with some souvenir shops are located on the grounds.

Photo by: shankar s. via Flickr
Photo by: shankar s. via Flickr

7. Museo Sugbo

Previously the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, the old building which dates back to the 1870’s is now home to the Cebu Provincial Museum. There are four permanent galleries and three special exhibition galleries that house artifacts, photos and documents detailing the political history of the Philippines and Cebu along with other historically important events. There is an exhibition displaying some of the artifacts from the shipwreck of the San Diego in 1600, alongside an exhibition on the detailed history during the Japanese occupation and Philippine independence.

Photo by: Constantine Agustin via Flickr
Photo by: Constantine Agustin via Flickr

6. Guitar Shops

Mactan Island is home to several of the country’s best guitar makers. Many of these shops have been around in some form or another for over a hundred years. Famous guitar making families like Allegre and Ferangeli Guitar have shops where you can not only watch how the guitars are made but the people are friendly and will give you guided tours of the facilities. People from all over visit the factories to purchase handmade stringed instruments made from exotic woods. After you watch the meticulous craftsmanship from the guitar maker, speak to one of the salesmen and pick out the perfect instrument for you.

Blues guitar

5. Fort San Pedro

Fort San Pedro was built in 1565 by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez De Legaspi and named after his ship. Used over the years by various militaries the fort now houses a museum where artifacts from early Cebu can be found along with the history of the Fort and Cebu. Tour the living quarters and see the various weapon emplacements along with exhibitions from shipwrecks and archaeological diggings. Originally built to secure the harbor and repel Muslim raiders it also served as a stronghold for Filipino revolutionaries. The small triangular fort is located at the Plaza de Independencia.

Fort San Pedro, Philippines

4. Carbon Market

The oldest and largest market in Cebu city is over 100 years old. Labeled as the biggest farmers market in the city, it is here that a variety of fresh produce can be found. The market also has stores selling fresh fish and meat, clothing, souvenirs and just about anything else you can think of. Named for the depot where coal was once offloaded from the railroad, Carbon Market is a favorite of locals and tourists. The market is located in downtown near many other tourist sights and offers a chance to experience the culture and meet people.

Art Phaneuf Photography / Shutterstock.com
Art Phaneuf Photography / Shutterstock.com

3. Cebu Taoist Temple

Built in 1972 by the Chinese Taoist community in Cebu, the temple is located in the Beverly Hills subdivision overlooking Cebu City. Easily reachable by taxi, you arrive at the front where 99 steps take you to the temple itself. Unlike many temples the Taoist Temple is open to visitors where you can view the temple itself and the statues. It is a popular site for tourists wanting beautiful photographs as it offers the perfect scenery. You can gain entry into the temple itself but there are dress codes such as no shorts. No photography is allowed of the inside of the temple, but it is open so you can easily see everything.

Cebu Taoist Temple

2. Magellan’s Cross

Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who organized the Spanish expedition to locate a shorter route to the Spice Islands, landed in Cebu in 1521. Upon landing he ordered a Christian Cross be erected on the island. Today the cross is housed in a small chapel across the street from the Santo Niño Church. The original cross is encased inside another wooden cross in order to protect it. The chapel where the cross is located is easily accessible and attracts tourists and pilgrims alike. Whether the cross is actually there or it was destroyed or stolen and replaced by a replica, the site is still popular spot for tourists and photographers.

Magellan's Cross Cebu

1. Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño

Commonly called Santo Niño Church, the Basilica was founded in 1565 by Spanish Explorers where the image of the Santo Niño statue was found. The oldest Roman Catholic Church in the country was damaged when Typhoon Yolanda hit the island in 2013 and was closed for over a year. The church is now open again and welcoming worshipers and visitors. A museum on the premises houses antique relics and statues. The church houses the oldest religious image in the country and in 1941 was declared a National Historical Landmark.

Photo by: By Badz Patanag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: By Badz Patanag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The 15 Best Volcanoes Hikes in the World

What does it take to climb a volcano? In some cases it takes permits purchased months in advance, technical climbing skills and a paid guide. In other cases one can simply drive right into the volcano, or spend an hour hiking up a moderate hill to reach the top. How about the best volcanoes to hike, how do you determine that? We looked at hundreds of volcanoes and determined the 15 best hikes to take based on a number of factors including ease of access, views from the top, lava activity and the reward factor. From around the world, here are our top 15 choices for the best volcano hikes in the world.

15. Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

This long but challenging hike takes trekkers through scenic landscapes including snow, ice and ash from the most recent eruptions. The trek starts at sea level and goes all the way to the top through a crevasse riddled glacier and finally to the summit where you can view an enormous crater that was left by past eruptions. Glacier equipment such as crampons are required as you literally will be climbing on ice. If you happen to reach the top on a clear day, expect unbelievable views of half the entire island including glaciers, more volcanoes and the Vestmannaeyjar islands. April to September is the time to go and if you are feeling extra adventurous it is possible to ski back down. The climb can take eight to 10 hours and although challenging, you will certainly feel on top of the world on this glacier volcano.

Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

14. Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes from about 1968 to 2010 and since then has slowed down but this volcano still is known to spit out ash and sometimes even lava. It is classic in shape, being tall and symmetrical and there is no worry about being cold up here. Climbing to the summit of this volcano is actually both illegal and very dangerous, but luckily there are a few worthwhile hikes that are totally legal and still get you up on the mountain. The main trial inside the park is about 5 km in length and takes you through the rain forest with several opportunities to view the peak. Expect lots of wildlife including toucans and monkeys along with explosions from the peak. Expect to hike over old lava flows and hit many viewing areas where you can actually hear the volcano breathing, which is really quite impressive.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

13. Mount Fuji, Japan

It is the highest volcano and highest peak in Japan where tourists and locals’ alike swarm to climb this volcano, known as one of the three Holy Mountains. More than 200,000 people a year to be exact. The last eruption of Mount Fuji occurred in 1707 and spread ash as far as what is now Tokyo forming a new crater on the east flank. July to September is the official climbing season where trails and mountain facilities are open. The most popular way to climb this volcano is to climb halfway up to one of the huts, take a break and set off again in the night, reaching the summit for sunrise. Worshipping the sun from the top of Japan’s highest peak creates something of a spiritual experience, no matter if you are religious or not. Avoiding the crowds is not possible on this mountain and some trekkers believe that climbing amongst so many like minded people just adds to the overall experience.

Mount Fuji 1

12. Mount Etna, Sicily

The largest active volcano in Europe, Etna soars into the sky often surrounded by mist and steam. Mount Etna is special in that it has this unique relationship with the people that live as the foot of it. They believe that Etna gives them fertile ground by spitting out lava and respect must be granted as it can also take away life. This volcano can be climbed year round and does not require any sort of permit or guide, but it is recommended to be informed about the activity status as it sometimes shuts down to hikers. It has recently come to the attention of many trekkers that the actual summit is unavailable to anyone who doesn’t have a guide, but that fact is up for debate. Plan on seeing solidified rivers of lava, views of the sea and the mainland, provided the top isn’t covered in clouds.

Mount Etna

11. Pacaya, Guatemala

You aren’t allowed quite to the top of this volcano but it should be on your list of things to climb for a number of reasons. First up, this trek can be done in half a day, which makes it perfect for someone on a time crunch. Secondly, not only are you climbing on an active volcano but you can actually see a second active volcano nearby and a third that is now a crater lake. The trek begins through lush green foliage and views are of surrounding fields and hills. The trail eventually turns into lava rock and dust, becoming really slippery. This is when it pays to have a walking stick. At the “top” the lava is literally running underneath you and it becomes clear as to why you need shoes with really good soles, they will literally melt. Marshmallows and hot dogs are routinely busted out and cooked over the lava.

Pacaya Volcano

10. Mount Vesuvius, Italy

This volcano is known worldwide as being responsible for covering the city of Pompeii with a blanket of ash in 79 A.D., which in turn preserved it until the re-discovery of it in the 1700’s. Since that time this volcano has blew its top more than 30 times throughout history and most recently in 1944. The climb to the summit is the easiest climb on this list and only takes about 30 minutes. It is best done in hiking shoes or running shoes and there is no need to carry any gear with you. What awaits visitors at the top is a stunning panorama of the city, islands and part of the Apennine Mountains. Admission to the volcano actually includes a guided tour of the crater at the top which many climbers are unaware of. You won’t find any spewing lava here but steam is often seen coming out of the crater. On a sunny day expect to see views out to the bay of Naples. If you are wanting to climb a famous volcano and don’t want to worry about tackling snow, steep ridges or carrying gear; this is the one for you.

Mount Vesuvius

9. Pinatubo, Philippines

This active volcano is actually located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines and last erupted in 1991, producing one of the most violent eruptions of the 20th century. As of now the volcano is quite quiet and it is the perfect time to summit and enjoy the blue green crater lake that didn’t exist 30 years ago. January is the best time to go as temperatures are at the coolest and the lake color at its finest. The one day trek is actually quite easy as a 4X4 will take you part of the way. The trek is done within a few hours at a moderate incline. If one desires it is actually possible to pitch a tent at the summit and spend the night, an outhouse is even provided at the top. Hikers will make their way up the path, passing sandy cliffs along the way as well as small tribes of indigenous people.

Pinatubo, Philliphines

8. Kilauea, Hawaii

Located on the Big Island, Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano and one of the most easily accessible. In the 20th century alone this volcano has erupted on 45 separate occasions with the most recent eruption beginning in 1983. To date this eruption continues and has spewed over 32 billion cubic yards of lava, forever changing the landscape. You can actually drive into this volcano, but hiking throughout is most recommended as it’s one of the only places on earth you can literally walk through an active volcano. Walking around Crater Rim Drive is one of the most popular activities as you can witness lava oozing out of it, witness steam vents and walk across the land that is only a few days old. There are numerous hiking trails throughout and although one can’t plan a visit around when and where to see the lava, helpful guides at the visitors center will point you in the right direction.

Mount Kilauea

7. Mount Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Hiking up this volcano is only permitted with a guide and there is a strict limit on how many people are allowed to visit the crater each day, thus make sure to book your trip in advance. The trip to the top isn’t for the faint of heart and will take anywhere from two to four hours to reach the summit. The most popular time to reach the top is at nighttime and thus more tours leave around 4 pm. A gentle incline awaits hikers at first, taking you through lush vegetation. It quickly becomes steeper and one should expect to walk through volcanic sand that is strewn with black rocks. There are actually three craters at the top that billow out steam and smoke, making strange gurgling sounds. The light show at the top is what everyone waits for though as the craters explode with red fiery sparks, shooting high into the air.

Mount Stromboli

6. Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Indonesia is home to over 100 active volcanoes and daily earthquakes, making it a popular place for adrenaline junkies and hikers alike. Although Mount Bromo isn’t the tallest of the active volcanoes in Indonesia, it is the most visited and is quite easily accessible. The volcano has a constant stream of white smoke coming out of it, reminding visitors that it could explode at any time. Getting to the summit is easy without a guide and is best done in time to see the sunrise, meaning a 3 am wake up call is necessary. The well-defined path up should only take you an hour or so. An interesting fact about this volcano is that the Tengger people believe that in order to appease the Gods here they must offer food and money to them by throwing it into the crater of the volcano during the annual Kasada festival.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

5. Cotopaxi, Ecuador

It is the second highest peak in Ecuador, lovely looking with its white snow and cone shape. This trek is not for inexperienced hikers though as it is more of a mountain climb than just a hike up the side. In the 18th and 19th century this volcano had a violent spell but now it is mostly just a plume of steam that comes out the top and melts its glacier surroundings. To get here most climbers take a 4X4 up to the border of the national park. They then climb with their guide up to a mountain hut and spend the night, summiting the next morning. It is currently illegal to climb to the summit without a guide and recent signs of eruption have limited the climbing that is allowed. If you have the chance though, summiting the world’s third highest active volcano is certainly something to put on the bucket list.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

4. Mont Pelee, Martinique

In 1902 this dramatic volcano erupted and destroyed the entire town of St. Pierre killing about 30,000 people. Luckily since then you can climb this volcano without worries and without tourists at every bend in the trail. Being an integral part of France, visitors climbing here face no red tape or fees but will need some French to get by as English is not widely spoken. Because of the immense vegetation on the island there are three established routes that trekkers can take. The most popular of these is the Aileron Route as it is a well-constructed and wonderfully varied trail. Climbing before dawn is recommended as the clouds roll in day after day just after dawn and prohibit hikers from the magical views that await. Gorgeous lush green vegetation, flowering plants and jagged peaks surprise visitors along the way of this volcano that really looks nothing like the grey, lava strewn volcanoes you are used to.

Mount Pelee, France

3. Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

Nicaragua is full of volcanoes, both dormant and active and it can be hard to choose which one to climb but we highly suggest heading to Telica. The majority of the way up tends to be flat, through farm lands and over dirt roads. It is only the last hour or two where you finally start to hike to the top. The best season for climbing this mountain is up for debate as the dry season tends to be hot whereas the rainy season can make the lava harder to witness. Camping at the top of Telica is one of the most popular trips to do as seeing the lava at night is something special and the sunrise in the morning is truly spectacular. The lava is below the crater rim at a depth of about 120 meters and visitors should expect to have to lie down on their stomachs to look into the crater.

Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

2. Mount Aso, Japan

It is Japan’s largest active volcano and climbing it is certainly an adventure that should be on the top of your bucket list. There are three trails you can use to get up to the summit, with one of them not actually leading up to the volcano (hint: do not take the left trail). The hike itself can take anywhere from an hour or three depending on which trail and how many stops you take along the way. There are actually five separate volcanic peaks here and Mt. Nakadake is the most active spewing a constant stream of sulfuric gas from its peak. If you are feeling really lazy and still want to get to the top of the volcano, there is a choice of two cable cars that will get you there.

Mount Aso, Japan

1. Mount St Helens, United States

It is mandatory to have a permit to hike this active volcano, no matter what time of year and there are only a number of permits that are handed out each year if you want to make it to the top of the crater. Although it is not a technical climb it is strenuous and presents hazards such as ice, loose boulders and fast-changing weather. The scene at the top is what people climb for an it has been described as ‘surreal, unbelievable and awe-inspiring’. A huge crater with a dome that grows in size each year and has a horseshoe glacier around it, not to mention incredible views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, as well as the blue green hills that surround them are all sights to take in from the top. This is truly one of the best volcano hikes in the world and must be at the top of your list to climb.

Mount St Helens, US

12 Amazing Caves You Have to Visit

Caves are eerie and mysterious. The splendor of a cave is uniquely individual and each cave offers a story. Some caves are famous, while others are only now coming into discovery. Under the earth, separate eco systems covet vaulted chambers, underground rivers and sacred surprises.  Adventurers can explore diverse caves with a dark history or witness glowworms lighting the chambers. One of the few places left to pioneer are the caves of the world; discoveries are abundant in current day explorations. Some of these caves will leave you in awe, majestic in their own way. Beneath our feet remains another world of intricate, hidden gems. No one really knows how many caves there are in the world, but the ones that are known call to even the most timid. If you have never visited a cave, the time is now. The amazing journey of caves begins here with our favorite 12 caves you have to visit.

12. Carlsbad Caverns -New Mexico, USA

Considered one of the most famous caves in the United States is Carlsbad Caverns. It is one of the oldest cave systems in the world. These legendary caves are located 27 miles from the city of Carlsbad in the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico. It is estimated that over 225 million years ago, Carlsbad Caverns was once a sea. Discovered by a little boy, Jim White, he would use his homemade wire ladder to explore the caverns. Take a guided or self-guided tour of the expansive caverns and enjoy the many chambers and rooms this cave has to offer. The appropriately named ‘Big Cave’ is the biggest cavern, with the some of the most colorful rock formations ever, while ‘Left Hand Tunnel’ will take you to amazing cave pools and fossils. Located deep within the Carlsbad Caverns is a mesmerizing place called the ‘King’s Palace’, a series of four chambers opening to a peculiar rippled rock formation known quaintly as the Queen’s Draperies. Carlsbad Caverns National Park entertains over 300,000 visitors a year. The reason Carlsbad is so famous? It hosts over 119 chambers of caves under the quiet of the desert terrain.

Carlsbad Caverns

11. Puerto Princesa Underground River -Palawan, Philippines

Be first in line to view the world’s longest underground river and navigate through a fascinating blend of bat habitat and amazing geology in the Puerto Princesa caves. Take a short jungle walk and see the different species of animals along the way.Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park has one of the most impressive cave systems, featuring intact old-growth forests, spectacular limestone landscapes, distinctive wildlife, and pristine beauty. It is located outside of the Philippine Archipelago on the coast of Palawan. The highlight of this river system is that it directly ends flowing into the sea. This mysterious cave site is a full ‘mountain-to-sea’ ecosystem, with a global phenomenon called tidal influence distinguishing these caves from any other famous caverns. Inside the caves, eye-catching rock formations create distinct forms like mushrooms, horses, a half face of Jesus, and fish. It is the first national park created and maintained by a local government unit, as a symbol of commitment by the Filipino people to hold onto their natural heritage. The Filipino people serve the park to keep it protected at all times. In 2012, this captivating underground river was officially established as one of the great new 7 wonders of nature.

r.nagy / Shutterstock.com
r.nagy / Shutterstock.com

10. Blue Grotto Caves -Capri, Italy

The Blue Grotto Caves of Italy are an absolute must-see for any visitor. This cave is situated on the northwest corner of Capri Island and draws a surplus of interested crowds to its iridescent blue waters constantly. This is no surprise as the experience is best described as surreal. In ancient times, people believed the Blue Grotto held magical healing powers and would frequent the caves to prolong their youth. The mystical water color can be compared to a blue sapphire or topaz gem. As your boat enters the cave, you must lay down flat to be sure you make it through the low ceiling opening. The best time to visit the Blue Grotto caves is in the late afternoon when the sun will shine directly on the outside of the cave. The brilliant turquoise water presents many different splendid ocean views. Inside the main cave, there is another chamber called the blue cathedral which extends into many smaller chambers. Anything submerged underwater will take on a strange discoloration, almost making objects reflect a silver iridescence. This cave offers a feeling of zen and purity; it is easy to see why the ancient Romans used the grotto as a healing pool and fountain of youth.

Blue Grotto Caves

9. Škocjan Caves -Trieste, Slovenia

The Skocjan Caves look like something out of the “Lord of the Rings” movies with vast underground gorges and halls. They are a network of 11 caves with swallow holes and natural bridges. The Skocjan Caves Regional Park is located on the main Karst plateau about 15 km from Italy. Karst formation caves are very distinct to Slovenia, with few in the world like this it’s only here that you can marvel at the world’s largest underground wetlands. The Skocjan Caves are actually an underground canyon with a river carving the rocks along the way; the water noise is a bit fear-inducing when the guards shut off their lights. Early explorers only had a small flame to use to navigate through this enormous cave system. The old carved stairs used by the explorers still exist for an eye-opener to see just how hard it was for these brave pioneers. This massive environment is surrounded on the outside by an ecosystem rich in diversity of plant life and animals. There are thousands of other caves in this area to explore when you are finished in the daunting Skocjan Caves.

Škocjan Caves

8. Barton Creek Cave -Belize

Outside of San Ignacio, Belize is an exciting remote cave once used by the ancient Mayans for ceremonial and burial purposes. Barton Creek cave visits involve spending an hour paddling canoes down an ancient Mayan waterway leading inside the mountain caverns. Meander along the route and you will get to see skulls and true artifacts as you move in between the stalactites and stalagmites. This cave offers high ceilings and cathedral chambers making it a beautiful setting in which to photograph. It is as if you were transformed into another time. The energy of the Mayan history is felt deeply in this underground cave; the remains of human sacrifices and pottery shards are an important link to the historic Mayan culture. On the way to the caves, which is about a 45 minute drive, you will pass through a traditional Mennonite village in Upper Barton Creek. Across the way is a clear, running creek abundant with native wildlife, such as howler monkeys. You will hear them, and maybe even see them as they rest in the deep mountain forests. This cave is uniquely historical and hidden deep in the rainforest jungle of Belize.

Barton Creek Cave

7. Onondaga Cave -Missouri, USA

Missouri is often referred to as “The Cave State” because it boasts over 6,000 cave formations within the state. Onondaga cave is one of the coolest caves in Missouri with its active flowstones, where water is busy building the formations. Stalagmites and dripping stalactites help make this cave a national natural landmark. The crevices which make up the Onondaga cave are the direct result of time laden, old river streams running constantly underground. Without realizing it, you are basically walking on water over roaring rivers invisible to the eye, covered by mounds of soil and rock beds. Karst is terrain based on soluble bedrock layers and is an integral part of many of Missouri’s caves. It is characterized by deep hollows, springs, sinkholes, eroded rolling hills and natural bridges. Missouri caves all are notably Karst. Karst was originally a name from Slovenia, typical for their own cave formations. The park itself offers beauty on the surface with Vilander Bluff Natural Area providing a panoramic scene of the Meramec River. The lovely Meramec River is formed by the many springs, both underground and above.

Onondaga Cave

6. Fantastic Cave Pit -Georgia, USA

The largest cave in America is the Fantastic Cave Pit in Georgia. It has a mind-blowing depth of 586 feet. To give you an idea of just how huge this cave is, it can hold the Washington Monument, and is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. Throw a stone and it takes 8 full seconds to reach the bottom. Fantastic is known as one of the two Ellison caves in Georgia’s Walker Country; the other one is called Incredible and measures 440 feet deep. The only way to see Fantastic Cave Pit is to rappel down, passing by the layers upon layers of rocks known to be millions of years old. The steep vertical pitch is frightening and exhilarating all at the same time as you take this twelve mile long adventure into pitch black. The amazing cave is not for the weak of heart or those with a height phobia, as this cave will test you on every level. Fantastic is a striking natural cave created by the limestone massif. This pit is only for experienced climbers, and even the most experienced of them have been challenged resulting in injury and even death. If you are into extreme spelunking, with caution, this is the cave for you.

Photo by: Second Globe
Photo by: Second Globe

5. Lascaux Caves -Motignac, France

This is not a spelunking cave; this is an amazing archaeological find in the world today. The Lascaux caves hold detailed drawings from over 17,000 years ago. It was in 1940 in Dordogne France, in the little community of Montignac, four boys and their dog found a long forgotten cave full of archaeological revelation. The Lascaux cave has been called the “Sistine Chapel of Prehistory.” The iconic workmanship and art techniques of animals, enigmatic signs, and human representations have brought millions of people to see for themselves. In fact, after its discovery the public swiftly piled into the prehistoric cave, almost completely demolishing the paintings. Today, to keep the paintings protected, tours only provide Paleolithic facsimiles and life-size replicas. This cave raises new questions about our understanding of our prehistoric ancestors. Rumors of a second cave of pre-historic artwork in Dordogne are being taken seriously after a 51 year old family secret was revealed to authorities. A woman in her 70’s revealed her now-deceased husband came across a cave in 1962 with prehistoric frescos, but he quickly covered the entrance so he wouldn’t be bothered. If authentic, this could shed even more light on our prehistoric past. The jury is still out on this one.

Photo by: Scoop Whoop
Photo by: Scoop Whoop

4. Fingal’s Cave -Staffa, Scotland

Located on the island of Staffa, a complete volcanic island is Fingal’s Cave. The calling card of this striking cave are the spectacular basalt columns. The entire cave is of different sized colonnades, nature’s gift to us. Even the cliffs of Staffa carry the basalt columns as walls around the edges. The series are equally spaced into prismatic columns and result in an extraordinary pattern. The columns have three to eight sides, with six being the most common. The cavern has a large arched entrance over the sea, but boats cannot enter here. There is a walkway overland that is led by a row of fractured columns into the cave allowing you to walk deep inside the 227-foot cavern. It is an odd scene to take in, with every column absolutely chiseled and exact; you would want to explore the reasons behind this strange perfection. Fingal’s Cave makes an impact immediately on the wandering explorers visiting this unique place. It is a solemn reminder of all the unbelievable, unimaginable wonders that exists in our world. It is baffling, extraordinary and causes our spirit to stir. This is a far-reaching experience and for cave-lovers, it should be on the bucket list.

Fingal’s Cave

3. Cave of the Swallows -Aquismon, Mexico

Cave of the Swallows (Sotano’ de las Golodrinas) is one of the deepest freefall caves in the world. It is a sinkhole cave that gets wider as you get closer to the bottom. The bottom is comparable to three football fields deep or 1,214 feet to be exact. If you were to jump in, it would take you twelve seconds to hit the bottom. During rainy season several waterfalls take the plunge directly over the edge and into the cave. Certain temperatures and even dampness can cause the cave to actually form clouds in the upper part. This enormous pit is home to hundreds upon hundreds of birds (hence the name). The dance begins promptly at sunrise, with little grey spots circling way below. The spots get bigger and bigger until thousands of white-collared swifts rise up from the cave. In a primeval ritual, the spiraling birds can almost be hypnotic. Even a more elegant bird lives in the Cave of the Swallows, beautiful green parakeets also do their ritualistic dance. The first know effort to explore the sinkhole was done by Texas cave explorers in 1966. It wasn’t until 1969; they knew just how deep this cave actually was. Times have changed, and extreme sports activity, including spelunking, keeps enthusiasts rappelling their way into the mysterious land of birds.

Photo by: Xtreme Spots
Photo by: Xtreme Spots

2. Glowworm Cave -Waitomo, New Zealand

This cave could be considered something right out of a fairy-tale scene; thousands of tiny glowworms illuminate the cavern like a starry night sky, except it is all a show done underground. Standing somewhere in the deep limestone shaft you will be left speechless. Glowworms are native to New Zealand and typically found in a variety of habitats especially caves. They use the bio-luminescence of their web silk and mucus to capture their prey. In Glowworm Cave, you can expect to see millions of glowworms, all about the size of a mosquito. Floating on a guided boat slowly and gently through this new land, gives you a new perspective on reality; there is magic still to be found. There is a true gem left to explore. This cave gives a whole new meaning to magic. Only 5 minutes from the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is Aranui Cave. It has a natural entrance and is the most delicate, tiniest cave of Waitomo’s three caves. Inside, you’ll find an alluring collections of flowstones, stalagmites, and decorative formations. Visit both caves for an easy 2 for 1 experience. These star bright little creatures offer an opportunity to find the magic of a fairy-tale in real life.

Photo by: Huff Post/Reddit
Photo by: Huff Post/Reddit

1. Cave of Crystals -Chihuahua, Mexico

Nothing quite compares to Cueva de los Cristales, or Cave of Crystals. In 2000, a pair of brothers discovered the limestone cavern almost 1,000 feet below ground in the Naica mine. Massive crystals were discovered, prompting scientists to wonder how they grew so big. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get to the cave entrance via a winding mine shaft where you descend into darkness and humidity. By the time you reach the entrance, no doubt you’ll be glistening with sweat. Then you see them…enormous pillars of light, some several feet thick. In fact, there is every shape of crystal possible, and a mystical experience begins. Imagine a crystal so big you could sit your whole family on it; or a few dozen tiny slivers of crystals being born out of a main one, resembling a hair brush. This is essentially the Cave of Crystals. This cave requires special equipment for exploration, as the magma can make the environment a dangerous one for those exposed for more than 10 minutes. It’s a worthwhile trip however as the crystals are said to be more than 500,000 years old. This cave is the number one cave to see because of the absolute grandeur of life happening within.

Photo by: Nat Geo
Photo by: Nat Geo