The Safest Cities For Women to Travel Alone in Europe

There has never been a better time than now to be a solo female traveler looking to explore Europe. Cities are becoming safer, female-friendly hotels are popping up and it is getting easier to meet other solo female travelers around the world. Here are 20 safe European cities for female solo travelers.

20. Vienna, Austria

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Austria is ranked number 4 on the Global Peace Index, making it an excellent and safe country for female solo travelers to visit. Vienna, the capital of Austria has earned the name of “city with the highest quality of life” several years in a row.

Vienna is full of stunning architecture, music, and history. There are plenty of museums to visit, such as Sigmund Freud’s house. This museum will help you understand why Vienna is known as the “city of dreams”.  You may also want to make a stop at Prater park to see the iconic Riesenrad Ferris wheel landmark. Finally, be sure to head to a local restaurant and try authentic Austrian food such as Wiener Schnitzel (a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet), Sachertorte (chocolate torte), or an Apfelstrudel (apple strudel).

19. Edinburgh, Scotland

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Between the breathtaking landscapes, ancient castles, and rich history, Scotland has a lot to offer. Scotland, a region of the United Kingdom ranks 45 on the Global Peace Index and is considered safe for female solo travelers. There is so much to do and see in Edinburg, the capital of Scotland. To begin, if you visit in August, there is a month-long arts festival called Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This festival offers theatrical performances, comedy shows, and many other activities that would be perfect for a female solo traveler, especially if you’re hoping to meet new people.

Moreover, consider taking a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle and take in the medieval architecture. After visiting the castle, be sure to head to Calton Hill which is a high point in the city that allows you to catch a full view of Edinburgh. Finish your day at a local pub and indulge in authentic food while meeting the locals.

18. Berlin, Germany

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Berlin, Germany’s capital is home to 3.5 million residents. Berlin is rich in history and full of culture and would be an excellent place to explore on your own. There are many restaurants, markets, and cafes in Berlin that will make you feel comfortable dining alone.

Discover what this city has to offer by taking a free walking tour, use the bike-sharing program, or hop on public transportation. Be sure to check out the Brandenburg Gate, and the Holocaust Memorial, and the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

17. Bruges, Belgium

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If you are a solo female traveler looking to immerse yourself in a fairy tale this would be the city to visit. Straight off a postcard, the city of Bruges is loaded with cobblestone streets, historic houses, and canals. It is here where you will be inspired to take long strolls throughout the streets and enjoy Belgian pints of beer by street-side cafes while people watching.

This city is extremely safe, for all travelers and welcomes visitors, especially in the summertime when it becomes peak travel season. There is a range of good hotels along with budget hostels that will meet any traveler’s budget, and English is widely understood throughout. Female travelers will feel safe as locals are willing to lend a hand if needed and are more than happy to give advice on where to go, what to see, and where to grab the next pint of beer.

16. Santorini, Greece

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If you want to see jaw-dropping scenery, be sure to add Santorini, Greece to your travel wish list. The emerald Mediterranean Sea is enough to take your breath away, but also the picturesque white villas are a sight to see too. Many people travel to Santorini with a partner or friend but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel there solo.

With friendly locals and an affordable bus system, you’ll be able to navigate your way across the city.

15. Paris, France

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Paris, France is known as the city of love. So it may seem ironic that one would travel there alone. However, exploring this beautiful city alone means that you don’t have to abide by anyone else’s opinions or plans. Further, exploring this city is easy and best to do either on foot or by taking the metro.

There are so many amazing things to see and do in Paris, France. Be sure to check out the iconic Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Arc de Triomphe. You should also enjoy a bottle of wine and a baguette all to yourself during your stay too.

14. London, England

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London, England is an excellent destination for solo female travels. Traveling through this city is easy from the amazing public transportation system to the remarkable hostels, hotels, and Airbnb’s. Not to mention English is their first language.

During your stay, be sure to visit Buckingham Palace, take a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and visit one of the many museums London has to offer. You should also dine at a local pub to indulge in traditional British food such as fish and chips, or a Toad in the hole. Further, dining at a pub will also help you meet the locals as well as other solo travelers too.

13. Oslo, Norway

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Oslo is a dream for female solo travelers, alas a bit expensive at times. It is Norway’s largest city and a great cultural city destination that is overflowing with things to see and do. Female solo travelers will feel safe no matter where they stay but may feel some extra comfort if they choose to stay on the women-only floor of the 130-year old Grand Hotel. Here they will find rooms stacked with books, magazines, a yoga mat, toiletries, and a female room-service menu, without the room service charge!

Wandering around the Vigeland Sculpture Park, which is 80 acres and feature 212 bronze and granite sculptures, you are sure to meet other solo travelers who will become quick friends. Head out to one of the many vibrant nightclubs or theaters with new-found travel friends for an unforgettable experience.

12. Dublin, Ireland

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Ireland is a very safe country. According to the Global Peace Index, Ireland ranks number 12 in the world. Further, as a female solo traveler, you will feel comfortable dining alone and you may even run into another solo traveler during your stay.

Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is laden with historic buildings including the captivating Dublin Castle. Some other great places to see are the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Museum of Ireland, and other must-see historic Attractions in Dublin.

11. Lisbon, Portugal

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Lisbon, Portugal is a wonderful place for female solo travelers. To begin, there are many safe and affordable hostels to stay in where you will meet many other solo travelers too. Secondly, Portugal ranks 3rd on the Global Peace Index.

Lisbon is full of rugged yet wonderful architecture and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Consider having a beach day all to yourself, or explore the Castelo de S. Jorge or the Jerónimos Monastery. Exploring this beautiful city is easy and can be done either by public transportation, on foot, or on a bike.

10. Stockholm, Sweden

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Built over 14 islands and connected by over 50 bridges this lovely cosmopolitan city is home to more than two million people. It is known for its gorgeous modern architecture, friendly people, and captivating waterways. Women are treated equally like men here and solo female travelers will face no issues in terms of harassment, drink spiking, or pickpocketing.

There is a slew of budget hostels throughout the city that are both affordable and safe, and a great way to connect with other travelers. This is a great city to experience Nordic culture in its modern and multicultural avatar, as well as dine on delightful local food. English is widely spoken here, and the locals are often teased for speaking a mix of Swedish and English-nicknamed Swinglish. Women will have no trouble finding people to talk to, tours to take and culture to experience here in Stockholm.

9. Cardiff, Wales

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Cardiff is the capital and largest city of Wales. This city is also considered one of Britain’s safer cities and for that reason, it is Wales’s most popular tourist destination. Along with being a safe city, Cardiff is full of culture, has many captivating castles and if you meet the locals they’ll surely share some of their ancient Welsh legends.

Further, students make up about 10% of Cardiff’s population which means younger female solo travelers will surely be well taken care of. There are many things to see and do in Cardiff. During your stay be sure to check out the National Museu, Cardiff Bay, and Cardiff Castle.

8. Helsinki, Finland

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The capital of Finland is one of the best cities for female solo travelers, thanks to its friendly locals, its reputation for being safe and beautiful. This walkable city is loaded with lovely parks, free city events, music, and shopping. Solo travelers will delight in the 20th-century architecture, the Helsinki Cathedral and the National Museum of Finland, which are always, home to other visitors.

One of the best things to do when you first get into the city is to take a walking tour, in order to fully appreciate the city’s cultural heritage, then move on to the shopping and dining. One cannot travel here without taking a dip in the Yrjönkatu Indoor Swimming Pool, (the oldest pool) built-in 1928. Recently renovated to house three pools and wonderful saunas, this is where women meet after work and have a sauna and swim followed by a drink, all done without any clothes on.

7. Prague, Czech Republic

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Immerse yourself in the alluring culture of the Czech Republic by visiting its capital, Prague. There is an abundance of things to see and do in the wonderful city of Prague.

Prague is not only a beautiful place to visit but the country, the Czech Republic ranks in the top 10 of the Global Peace Index. Consider meeting other solo travelers by taking a walking tour, or keep to yourself and explore one of their many museums, or even check out a show at the State Opera.

6. Copenhagen, Denmark

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The capital of Denmark is a vibrant and colorful city, which still manages to maintain a small-town feeling. New meets old in this fairytale-like city that features ancient buildings and towering glass and steel skyscrapers. Many of the state-run museums in this city are free admission, making it easy to save on spending and you can’t miss out on visiting the world’s oldest amusement park- Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park.

This city offers a unique experience that is perfect for female solo travelers called ‘Meet the Danes.’ This service arranges home-dinners with a Danish family or a single woman and her friend. Expect a traditional Danish meal and plenty of conversation with your new-found friends. Don’t miss the goddess Gefjun fountain that depicts the mythology of Denmark’s creation and magic within the Norse religion.

5. Barcelona, Spain

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Barcelona, Spain is known for its captivating architecture and art and would be a great destination for female solo travelers. For starters, the public transportation system is excellent. You’ll have the option of taking a bus, metro, trains, or trams, however, you will also be able to see a lot of the attractions on foot too. While Barcelona is generally safe, it’s always important to still take precautions such as keeping your personal belongings close by to prevent pickpocketing and don’t flash around money or expensive belongings.

During your stay be sure to check out the Sagrada Familia church, designed by Antoni Gaudi, and the Picasso Museum.

4. Zurich, Switzerland

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Zurich is an extremely safe city and therefore traveling alone as a female here is also incredibly safe, and downright breathtaking. Snow-capped Alps loom in the background, museums and art galleries line the streets and the nightlife is something to speak of. Female travelers will find no shortage of shopping to do here, cobblers, tailors, metalsmiths, candle makers, jewelry makers, and watchmakers fill the streets.

Choices of accommodations are endless here and if you feel nervous at all in this city we suggest heading over to Lady’s First Design Hotel, which was built especially for female travelers. The ancient center is the perfect place to stroll through the winding lanes and look up to the tall church steeples, stopping for coffee at sidewalk cafes. Further, Zuri-West is where to find the hottest nightlife in the city, just in case you are looking to meet new friends that want to dance the night away.

3. Sorento, Italy

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Sorento is a coastal town located in the southwestern part of Italy. This charming town faces the Bay of Naples on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Be sure to make your way to Piazzo Tasso, a central square in Sorrento that offers plenty of restaurants and shopping. Here you can try their famous Gelato, or drink a cup of delicious coffee.

Not only is there a lot to see and do in Sorento, but it’s also a popular vacation spot for Europeans. This means that you’ll hear a lot of English in both the restaurants and in the streets of Sorento which will only make traveling by yourself even easier. Further, you’ll find that it is easy to navigate around the town which will only add to a stress-free experience.

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Amsterdam received the nickname “Venice of the North” because it has many beautiful canals. This charming city has something for every type of female traveler. Whether you enjoy history, are a party animal, or prefer to simply take in the scenic view, Amsterdam has it all.

According to the Global Peace Index, the Netherlands ranks in the top 20 in the world.  There is plenty to see and do in Amsterdam and you will most likely run into other solo travelers too.

1. Reykjavik, Iceland

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It has been rated as the number one safest country for women to travel to alone and Iceland has been beckoning female solo travelers for as long as it can remember. This is the ultimate travel adventure for the traveler who loves the outdoors. Think glacier hiking in the Pingvellir National Park, skiing at Blafjoll, and Viking horse riding at Thingvellir.

If you aren’t the outdoorsy type, don’t worry there is plenty for you to do here including the chance to relax and de-stress in one of the many thermal pools and spas across the city. If you’re lucky you may even get to witness the famous Aurora Borealis. This city happens to be famously expensive though and we highly suggest staying at a hostel instead of a hotel to save money. This city is notoriously safe, even at night and as a female solo traveler, make sure you put Reykjavik on your bucket list.

The 8 Best Off the Beaten Path Honeymoon Destinations

Throw everything you ever thought about honeymoons out the window. Forget the typical all-inclusive resorts, cruises or cottage getaways. Instead, let us introduce you to the best off the beaten path honeymoon destinations you’ll ever find. From sleeping in a glass igloo with the Northern Lights overhead to wandering through waterfalls and jungle, to a National Park that offers both beach and safari; it is a wonder why people still insist on taking traditional honeymoons. These eight incredible destinations will transform your thoughts on where you might want your honeymoon to be.

8. Saadani National Park, Tanzania, Africa

If you are looking to combine beach and adventure, there is no better place to do so than Saadani National Park in Tanzania. Here honeymooners can have both an epic safari and a great beach vacation. Stay at Saadani Safari Lodge where you will spend the morning bathing in the Indian Ocean before jumping into a 4X4 jeep to explore wildlife such as lions and hippos. The 15 tented cottages are hidden amongst palm trees on a tranquil beach and provide the utmost privacy. Enjoy two decked pools, a hidden treehouse overlooking a waterhole that is home to baboons, giraffes, lions and buffalo, a boat bar and restaurant on stilts overlooking the water. Honeymooners should stay in the Siri Suite, a suite situated on top of a sand dune, away from the others complete with its own plunge pool, outdoor kitchen area with personal chef, a bar and a personal butler. Enjoy your own private beach, private safaris and personalized experience. You can truly have it all here.

Photo by: Scott Dunn
Photo by: Scott Dunn

7. Pucon, Chile

This Chilean city offers adventurous honeymooners the ultimate experience when it comes to climbing, hiking and diving. Stay at Hotel Antumalal, which offers an incredible forest chalet, surrounded by woods and with views of the beautiful Villarrica Lake from your private terrace. Spend the days climbing Villarrica, an active volcano or soothing your muscles in the hot springs. Tours depart right from the front door of this hotel and can include walking tours of the many surrounding waterfalls, kayaking, horseback riding, rafting and more. Head back to the hotel at the end of the day to enjoy the beautiful spa which features a heated indoor/outdoor pool, sauna with views over the lake, hydro massage pool and an abundance of massage and therapies available. The open air restaurant with its fresh seasonal ingredients and exceptional wine menu are sure to delight all honeymooners.

Photo by: Hotel Antumalal Pucon Chile
Photo by: Hotel Antumalal Pucon Chile

6. Durness, North Scotland

If your idea of a honeymoon is escaping reality and having incredible views of water, mountain and sky, and you don’t mind a self-catering option, Croft 103 is for you. It is here where you will find two incredibly cool boltholes with walls of glass looking out onto some of the most beautiful views on the planet. These cottages are completely private and set apart, featuring stone bathrooms, magnificent kitchens and huge terraces. Think leather sofas in front of a fireplace, an outdoor claw foot bathtub and views that go on forever. Honeymooners will spend their days exploring deserted beaches and hiking empty mountains, taking in storms from the huge terrace and gazing at stars by candlelight. It is self-catering at these cottages, which means you will need to bring your own groceries, or arrange to have homemade meals awaiting there on your arrival.

Photo by: Croft 103 / John Paul Photography
Photo by: Croft 103 / John Paul Photography

5. Sanya, Hainan Island, Southeast China

It was once deemed as China’s “gate of hell”, but Hainan Island is now full of breathtaking white sand beaches, thick rainforests, highland mountains, traditional Chinese villages and a slew of luxury hideaways. Honeymooners can spend their days volunteering with sea turtles, visiting ancient temples, snorkeling in the clear waters and hiking in the rainforest. Stay at the awesome beachfront resort on Haitang Bay, The Royal Begonia, which is set against pristine sands and azure waters. Honeymooners should book one of the private villas, which feature a private butler, marble bathrooms, private pools and glittery chandeliers. Enjoy exotic cocktails and local cuisine at the indoor/outdoor restaurant on-site. A state of the art fitness center, spa and accommodations combined with an incredible island full of activities to explore make this the perfect honeymoon destination.

Photo by: Luxury Collection Hotels and Resorts
Photo by: Luxury Collection Hotels and Resorts

4. Port Antonio, Jamaica

It is easy to choose the Caribbean as your destination honeymoon but if you are looking for something a little more private and off the beaten path, Port Antonio is the perfect choice. This quiet and beautiful haven is known for its incredible white sand beaches, beautiful waterfalls, clear water perfect for diving and snorkeling, nearby rafting and epic sunsets. Honeymooners will spend days tasting freshly caught seafood, relaxing in the sun and walking through the towns and markets. Stay at Geejam Hotel, a beautiful private hotel made up of only seven double rooms. Rooms range from cabins with an outdoor jacuzzi and lush rain forest settings to a villa complete with private pool and personal chef. Make sure to eat your meals at the exquisite Bushbar, the restaurant that features a forest-to-ocean view, outdoor pool table and savory Jamaican and Asian-influenced dishes.

Port Antonio Jamaica

3. Hvar, Croatia

Although this town certainly attracts its share of party-goers, it is actually the perfect destination for honeymooners as well. Think endless lavender fields to wander through, gourmet seafood dinners straight from the sea, relaxing days on the beaches of the Adriatic Sea, day trips to the Paklinski Islands and more. Stay at Hvar’s spa boutique hotel, Adriana, where you can indulge in cocktails on the rooftop bar that offers a wrap-around view of the ancient city, yacht harbor, bay and Paklinski Islands. Book one of the romance packages where you will be treated to in-room love themed daily breakfast, outdoor candle lit massage for two, romantic dinners and more. Splurge on the spa suite, which features extra luxurious furnishings and even more spa access. And hey, if you want to go out and party with the locals and other tourists, there is no shortage of that in this city.

Photo by: Adriana Spa Hotel
Photo by: Adriana Spa Hotel

2. Costa de Prata, Portugal

Northern Portugal may not come up on the list of top ten places you want to have your honeymoon, but after reading this, you may just change your mind. It is here where you will walk on the beach, swim in the sea, walk through the walled medieval city of Obidos, play a round of golf or take part in an eco-adventure. Honeymooners should consider staying at Aerias do Seixo as this stunning hotel is located just 35 minutes from the city of Lisbon and features just 14 romantic rooms. Think driftwood beds, pod-like wood stoves suspended from the ceilings and warm colors throughout. Nature pervades everything here, from the impressive environmental credentials to the home-grown organic produce served in the restaurant. Relax in the spa pool, sauna or Turkish bath, book one of the hotel experiences such as a fishing/mussel harvesting morning or take one of the hotel bicycles and explore the surrounding area.

Photo by: Areias do Seixo Charm Hotel & Residences
Photo by: Areias do Seixo Charm Hotel & Residences

1. Lapland, Finland

Forget about soaking up the sun for your honeymoon and instead embrace the winter by heading to the city of Lapland in Finland. Honeymooners will experience husky dog safaris, northern lights tours, snowmobile excursions, ice-fishing and more. Perhaps the best part about a winter wonderland honeymoon is cuddling up inside at the end of the day. One of the most unique accommodations in Lapland is Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, which offers several different types of rooms including glass igloos built right into the ground, which happens to offer stunning views of the Northern Lights. For those less adventurous couples, stay in one of the log cabins or wood-lined earth lodges that were created specifically with couples in mind, complete with an en-suite sauna. On-site dining at two exceptional restaurants, including one awesome ice bar, a wealth of activities at your fingertips and a city that comes alive in the winter time makes this one of the best off the beaten path honeymoon destinations in the world.

Photo by: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Photo by: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

 

10 Memorable Places Best Visited By Cruise Ship

When planning your next vacation, there are a variety of trips you can go on. Will you fly to an all-inclusive resort and lay on the beach? Will you rent a car and go on a road trip down a beautiful coastline? How about a backpacking adventure? One of the options that is always present, is going on a cruise. Cruises are a great way to see a variety of locations in a short amount of time, while travelling in comfort and class. The best part about a cruise, is that you only have to unpack once!

 

1. Alaska

Visit this isolated and chilly part of the world from the comfort of a cozy cruise ship cabin. You are able to see Humpback Wales, Bears, Hawks and Moose, just to name a few of our animal friends that will be waiting for you in Alaska. Denali National Park is also one of the sites you can explore on some Alaskan cruises and it features the highest point in North America.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

2. Hawaii

With so many islands and a limited amount of holiday time, cruises are a great way to get a taste of each Hawaiian island in a short time span. Many Hawaiian cruises will feature a lot of the Hawaiian culture and traditions to help you feel like you’re on an island, even when you’re cruising through the ocean. When the boat makes stops, there are so many once in a lifetime opportunities to try out on each island such a helicopter tours, hiking, rafting and so much more. The scenery is to die for!

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

3. Caribbean

If you are wanting to go on a trip to the Caribbean, it can be difficult to decide where to go and what island to see. On a cruise ship, you can see a wide variety of the Caribbean islands. Then, in a few years you can fly to the island that was your favorite on the cruise and make the most of that location. Another winning factor of going on a cruise here, is that it is very family oriented.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

4. Mediterranean

Are you looking for a visually stunning location with tons of history? Take a Mediterranean cruise, and I promise, you will not be disappointed! These cruises are ideal for mature, adult travellers who are looking for some enriching experiences and peacefulness.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

 

5. Norway

Throw on a thick sweater, a good book and some slippers and cruise around Norway. These cruises are special because of the amount of daylight that is present for a large portion of each day. It allows you to see the maximum amount of scenery in a good amount of time. You also get to experience entering the Arctic Circle where there is a noticeable change in the water, temperature and overall climate.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

 

6. The Cook Islands

When you see islands like this, you probably think it’s in the Caribbean. The actual fact is that this set of islands is halfway in between Hawaii and New Zealand. It has an untouched quality about it and the best part about it is that there is no bad time to visit! The lowest temperature in the winter is 18 degrees Celsius. See all of the Cook Islands on a breathtaking cruise to ensure you won’t miss a thing.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

7. The Nile

Have you ever considered cruising down the Nile River? The best time to go is between October and April for between 3-7 days. These cruises allow you to visit many historical sites such as the Valley Of The Kings and countless temples. You also have the opportunity to hire a private tour guide to show you all the sites along the way.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

 

8. Australia and New Zealand

Aside from the stunning views and peaceful locations, this cruise will lead you and your loved ones to the Great Barrier Reef to see incredible fish and other wildlife. Your experience of a lifetime will also be highlighted by cruising through the Tasmanian Wilderness where you will see more wildlife and breathtaking locations.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

9. The Baltic

Where does a Baltic cruise go you ask? It travels to Russia, Estonia, Poland and Germany, just to name a few locations. The incredible architecture and historic locations are enough to convince you to sign up for one of these tours. One advantage is that there is very short distances between ports because there is so much to explore. You will be transported to a fairy tale when you are walking through these magical old towns.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

10. England, Scotland and Ireland

When you think of a cruise, you probably don’t think of these countries first. As someone who has been on a ship in the Irish Sea, I can say it is completely worth it. See ruins of castles and heart stopping landscapes that make incredible photos. These cruises also feature culturally accurate cuisine so you won’t miss out on the perks of the mainland.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

7 Exciting Holidays Where You’ll Actually Learn a Thing or Two

For all of you multi-taskers and fidgety folk: have you ever considered going on a holiday that would teach you something you didn’t know before? Travel (no matter where you go and what you see) inherently offers the opportunity to learn new things or to see things from a different perspective. But what if the purpose of your holiday was to acquire a new skill or further your education formally? Here is some food for thought to make your next holiday a learning adventure.

1. Salsa Dancing Holiday, Cuba

Even if you’ve got two left feet, there is no denying the lure of the beat of salsa music, especially if you are in a tropical destination. For your next holiday, why not jump in with both feet (left and other left) and take a Salsa Dancing Holiday? In Cuba, many all-inclusive resorts offer complimentary salsa lessons as part of the resort amenities, but there are a number of planned itineraries available through travel companies that will arrange for dance lessons in different venues and cities over the course of your two-week stay, as well as an opportunity to savor authentic Cuban cooking, lifestyle and of course, music. By the end of your holiday, you’ll be a dancing fiend!

Salsa dancing cuba

2. Big Life Stretch, Spain

Travel opens up opportunities that you don’t have at home, so it stands to reason that if you are seeking to make a change in your life (advance in your career, improve your relationships or work towards that elusive work/life balance) that leaving your familiar surroundings might open your mind and usher in that change. The Big Life Stretch is a one-week retreat near Malaga, Spain in the mountains. You’ll spend a very reflective week, surrounded by nature. Guests participate in scheduled life coaching, and also learn techniques to embrace change, amplified by the natural setting.

Malaga, Spain

3. Learn a Language, Around the World

Instead of stumbling around in a foreign country with a guidebook, trying out phrases, why not make learning the language the aim of the holiday? There are literally dozens of travel companies that offer language travel experiences and courses. You simply need to consider what language you’d like to learn, and where you’d like to go to learn it. Another thing to consider- how do you want to learn? While there is undeniable merit to classroom learning, why not take advantage of local learning opportunities to see your language of choice in action (and use it yourself- which is the real way to learn a language). Seek out travel companies that include field trips, and offer other leisure opportunities (i.e. wine tours, cycling tours, etc.) that will allow you to get the most immersive (and fun) experience that you can.

learning a new language

4. Surfing School, Canary Islands

Surfing is just cool- cool to watch and even cooler if you’re the one of the surfboard. While there are any number of surf destinations worldwide, beginners will appreciate having a school with hands on instructors and a holiday experience meant to help you learn to surf- but enjoy the destination as well. 7 Island Surf in the Canary Islands specializes in Beginner and Intermediate surf lessons (although they offer a range to appeal to different skill levels). All guests need to do is book their flights, and they take care of your accommodations and your lesson plans. They also offer Surf & Spa packages as well as Surf and Yoga/Pilates packages too.

Photo by: 7 Island Surf
Photo by: 7 Island Surf

5. Creative Writing Holiday, France

Got a novel or other piece of writing lurking inside of you? What better way to smash through that Writer’s Block then to visit a locale that is scenic and receive training to be a better (or to start as a) Creative Writer? Abri Creative Writing Holidays in the Cévennes Mountains of the Languedoc region in the South of France offers residential writing retreats and programs to cater to beginners and experienced writers alike. They specialize and offer support with professional tutors in all kinds of genres- from poetry to prose to memoirs. These holidays include food and accommodation, and are limited to 16 people to keep the setting intimate and muse-worthy.

creative writing

6. Photography Holiday, Spain

Taking pictures is a major part of every holiday, but how many of us are any good at it? Why not take the opportunity on your next holiday to learn how to really capture your travel memories- on this trip and on every trip you take afterwards. In scenic Torrix, Spain, Awaken Holidays offers 8 day long all-inclusive vacations (room and board), photography workshops and personalized photography tours. Places this tour visit to photograph include traditional Spanish homes, the mountains, rock formations, and the sun rising over Lake Vineula.

photography

7. Wild Cookery, Scotland

Everyone is familiar with cooking holidays, which are enormously popular, particularly in regions of Italy and France, where travelers flock to learn regional cooking in the most authentic way. If you are looking for a cooking holiday with a twist, consider the Wild Rose Outdoor Cookery and Foraging courses. Head out to the Scottish Highlands for the weekend, where you’ll forage for greens and other ingredients and learn about ancient ways of cooking outdoors, like fireside cookery, hot stones and pit cooking. Pit cooking is the original crock pot, where food simmers in its own juices for hours, and is excellent for cooking soups and stews.

Photo by: Wild Rose Escapes
Photo by: Wild Rose Escapes

Britain’s 15 Best Beaches

Many people don’t necessarily think of hitting the beach when they visit the UK, but in fact it is absolutely loaded with beautiful coastline, alas the water isn’t always the warmest but the views will make up for that. Many of these beaches lie untouched, wildly beautiful and free from crowds of people. Others are popular spots among surfers (yes, there’s surfing in Britain) and water sports enthusiasts. Brilliant blue waters, silky white sands, beautiful dunes and luscious landscapes make up these 15 best beaches in Britain.

15. Blackpool Sands, Dartmouth

Located in South Devon is a beautiful beach, sheltered in a bay surrounded by evergreens and pines with water so turquoise in color it almost feels Mediterranean. The water here is crystal clear, in large part due to the small smooth pebbles that make up the beach and the ban of dogs on the beach. Perfect for families, Blackpool Sands has lifeguards on duty during the summer months, along with plenty of amenities to keep everyone happy. A floating raft in the summer months is one of the most popular activities as many choose to sunbathe on it, or dive off into the blue waters. With a café producing local and organic meals, a shop renting out water sports equipment and events happening all summer long, Blackpool Sands is the perfect Britain beach getaway.

Blackpool Sands, Devon england

14. Llanddwyn, Anglesey

This stunning island beach is known as the “Beach of Romance” due in part to a story about a runaway princess that fled here after a love affair gone wrong. This three-mile stretch of sand is backed by impressive sand dunes and has been awarded for having extremely clean water. The beach is cleaned daily, although they are no lifeguards on duty and therefore parents should be aware of that before they visit. Just beyond this beach is the Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve, a 1.5 acre piece of property that is popular with bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. There are over 10 miles of footpaths for hiking enthusiasts and visitors should keep their eyes open for the elusive red squirrel that lives here. Stunning scenery, a laid back atmosphere and a lovely island to explore makes the beaches here the perfect getaway.

Llanddwyn island, Anglesey

13. Watergate Bay, Newquay

It is one of the most popular beaches in the area due to the predictable Atlantic swells that provide the perfect waves for any surfer. This two-mile stretch of golden sand also happens to be beautiful with its dunes and cliffs providing the picture perfect backdrop. Families happen to love this beach as there are plenty of rock pools filled with crabs and other creatures to amuse the kids, while adults can book a surfing lesson or relax nearby. This wide stretch of beach ensures that it never feels crowded and there are plenty of things to do other than swim, including taking a hike along the cliff top or taking a traction kiting lesson from the nearby academy. There are a couple of restaurants located right on the beach as well as hotels for extended stays. Make sure to grab your board, pack plenty of buckets for the kids and prepare to spend at least a day exploring this beach.

Watergate Bay, Newquay

12. Luskentyre, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

The landscape in the Outer Hebrides is enough of a reason to go, never mind the breathtaking beaches that are present here. Arguably the best of the beaches here is Luskentyre, largely in part to its azure-green waters that look more like Caribbean waters. Miles of white sand backed by beautiful dunes set the stage for this incredible coastline. This beach is truly incredible at any time of the year and the most popular activity here is to walk along the stretch of sand. Depending on the sun, clouds and sky, expect the water to constantly change color from green to blue to black and back to green. Expect the scenery to change along the way with pools, cliffs, islands and an abundance of wildlife. Otters, seals, dolphins, wild ponies, eagles and deer are all known to call this place home.

Luskentyre, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

11. Lunan Bay, Scotland

This two-mile stretch of beach is located on the Angus coastline and provides visitors a picture perfect escape from reality. The beach is backed by magnificent dunes and the equally stunning Red Castle, a crumbling 12th- century fortress that makes for the perfect backdrop for any budding photographer. The beach is littered with curious rock formations, low red cliffs and some people swear that the sand takes on a pinkish hue at times. If you are lucky to be here after a storm you will most likely be able to find semiprecious stones that have washed ashore, such as jasper and agate, you might even find a shark egg here as well. The currents at this beach tend to be strong and swimmers should take great care when they are in the water. The two most popular activities here have to be surfing and bird watching.

Photo by: Visit Scotland
Photo by: Visit Scotland

10. Woolacombe Beach, Devon

This three-mile stretch of white sand is popular among both families and surfers and remains one of the most popular and most-loved beaches in all of Britain. Because of its size, this beach never feels crowded and throughout the day visitors stretch out amongst the white sand to play games, build sandcastles or play in the water. Lifeguards are on duty throughout the day and with plenty of rock pools to splash in and gentle sloping sands; it is truly the perfect beach for children. Plenty of amenities such as shops, cafes, washrooms and showers make it easy to spend the entire day here. The world-class surf breaks are perfect for those wanting to catch a wave while cliff top trails provide the perfect experience for hiking enthusiasts. Make sure to stick around for sunset as the colors that light up the sky are truly unbelievable; just don’t forget your camera.

Woolacombe Beach, Devon

9. Scarborough South Bay, North Yorkshire

This large sandy bay is full of excellent amenities, facilities, trained lifeguards and beautiful surroundings. Legend has it that Scarborough was one of the world’s original spas and that people came here as early as 1611 to bathe in the waters that were thought to have healing powers. Scarborough Castle, although in ruins is what separates North and South Bay and the ruins are well worth exploring. There is a working harbor along with a marina located at this beach which means there is no shortage of seaside stalls selling amazing fresh seafood. The waves lap gently onto shore and the waters are relatively free of currents and therefore perfect for any type of swimmer. It is important to note that this beach can get crowded on a hot sunny day and visitors should arrive early to grab a prime beach spot.

Scarborough South Bay, North Yorkshire

8. Porthmelgan Beach, Pembrokeshire

This sandy, sheltered cove is perfect for any visitors looking to escape the busyness of everyday life, with its tranquil nature and beautiful scenery. The beach itself is a triangle of golden sand that is surrounded on three sides by protective cliffs, making it a haven for sun lovers and keeping the winds out. The rock pools are a delight for both kids and adults alike, full of interesting creatures such as crabs, shrimp and small fish. Furry four-legged animals are welcomed here all year around and there is plenty of room for them to run and play. It is important to note that at high tide the beach is made up of pebbles and the sand doesn’t appear until the tide starts to retreat. Overlooking Ramsay Island, home to the UK’s largest grey seal population, this picture perfect beach is a respite from the overcrowded Whitesands Beach, located just a short walk away.

Photo by: Visit Pembrokeshire
Photo by: Visit Pembrokeshire

7. Achmelvich Beach, Highlands, Scotland

The west coast of Scotland is home to an abundance of beautiful beaches; some just miles of golden, others sparkling with crystal clear turquoise waters and all of them uncrowded and pollution free. Achmelvich Beach is located in the far north-west of the Highlands and is actually a series of intimate beaches with clean white sand. The waters here are pollution free, safe for swimming and are often filled with playing porpoises. Expect a beautiful background full of lush greenery and brilliant flowers. Achmelvich Beach is also home to the tiniest castle in all of Europe and an amazing annual sandcastle-building competition. Camping is quite popular around this beach and there are a total of two campgrounds and one caravan park that are open for business. Visitors should not that dogs are banned from this beach in the summertime, as well as they are banned year round in the camping parks.

Photo by: Welcome to Scotlande
Photo by: Welcome to Scotlande

6. Rhossili Bay, Wales

This beach bay is made up of three-miles of fine golden sand and incredible Atlantic Swells, making it the perfect beach for both sandcastle building and surfing. During low tide visitors will be privy to the remains of Helvetia, a ship wrecked in 1887. If you are looking to stay away from the crowds, make sure to stick to the Rhossili end of the beach rather than the Hillend. You won’t find any sort of facilities at this end but you will find incredible picturesque views and amazing tranquility. The water tends to be quite warm in July and August, unusual for Britain and many swimmers and surfers can be seen enjoying it. One of Gower’s most famous landmarks, Worms Head is also found here. Head down to the Hillend side if you are looking for shops and restaurants.

Rhossili Bay, Wales

5. Pentle Bay, Tresco, Scilly Isles

The white sand and sparkling blue color of the water gives this beach a tropical feeling, and with a slightly warmer climate here than the rest of Britain, it is easy to feel as though you are sitting in the midst of the Caribbean. This beach is one of the smallest on this list at just half a mile but that doesn’t make it any less breathtaking and amazing. Because of its location on the opposite shore of where the boats land, Pentle Bay remains largely unvisited. It is only a 10-20 minute walk here but surrounding beaches that are closer means this one often gets overlooked. Surrounding low dunes, sheltered and safe waters and an outstanding view are all reasons to make the walk here. Whether you are looking to collect seashells or simply lounge on your beach towel, be sure not to miss out on Pentle Bay.

Photo by: Tresco Island
Photo by: Tresco Island

4. Scarista Beach, Isle of Harris, Scotland

For those looking to enjoy the island life, Britain is the perfect place to be as it is home to more than 6,000 islands. Isle of Harris, located in the Outer Hebrides is home to one of the best beaches to be found. Scarista Beach is made up of miles of shell-scattered golden sand with gently lapping water. The sand is backed by towering dunes and a mountainous lunar landscape. The stunning blue water is often filled with seals playing nearby and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for nearby deer that often wander down to the beach. This beach also happens to be very popular with surfers as it packs a great swell for both beginners and experts. Make sure to pack your beach towels and a picnic and spend the whole day here, often unaccompanied by any other visitors.

Photo by: Rough Guides
Photo by: Rough Guides

3. Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales

This golden sand beach is one of Wales best kept secrets and although it has come into the spotlight in recent years, it stills remains largely untouched. There is no road access to this beach and visitors can expect to walk about half an hour over the picturesque cliff top to reach it. Beach goers should be aware that the hike is not suitable for anyone in a wheelchair, pushchair or stroller. The reward for the trek is a breathtaking crescent shaped beach, with deep soft sand and a brilliant shade of blue, often compared to the color of the Caribbean Sea. Gentle waves and a lack of currents make this the perfect place for children to swim that is if they can endure the hike. Make sure to bring along a picnic if you plan on spending the day here as there is nowhere to buy food or drinks, nor is there a washroom to use.

Photo by: Bluestone national park
Photo by: Bluestone national park

2. Durdle Door, Dorset

On the Jurassic Coast lie a couple of beaches so hard to get to that we promise they won’t ever be overcrowded, and it sure is worth the effort. Durdle Door is actually the name of the limestone arch between the two beaches, St Oswald’s Bay and Man O’War Cove. To reach these beaches visitors must descend down several hundred steps built into the cliff. Once you get down though, the location is absolutely stunning. Besides the obvious beautiful rock formation, visitors are treated to windless conditions, clear blue waters, lush green vegetation and a wild and desolate feeling. We recommended bringing everything down with you that you may need as it is a long way to get back up. Swimmers are warned the water is cold, all year round and draws gasps of disbelief from even the bravest of swimmers. Think of this beach as a photographer’s paradise more than swimmers.

Durdle Door

1. Bantham Beach, South Devon

It is hailed as one of the finest sandy beaches in Devon and certainly one of the best in all of Britain, with its vast expanse of sand and beautiful blue waters. Families love this beach for its fantastic rock pools, tiny estuary and windless conditions. Surfers flock here for the long and low waves that make the conditions perfect for both beginners and veterans. The favorite time at this beach is low tide, when the miles of sand are exposed and it looks like you can simply walk out forever. A background of dunes and cliffs create the perfect backdrop for a memorable day at the beach. Grab a bite to eat at the Gastrobus in the dunes, spend the night at the art deco hotel and enjoy one of the best beaches in all of Britain.

Bantham Beach, South Devon

7 Beautiful and Underrated Cities in the UK

The UK is brimming with cities full of medieval architecture, breathtaking cathedrals, lively green spaces and fascinating history. Indeed most people flock to the cities of London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool where they fight crowds of tourists and visit overrated attractions. The secret of visiting the UK is to find the hidden gems, the underrated, the beautiful and the closely guarded. From England to Scotland to Ireland, we have discovered 7 of these cities, who offer a slew of incredible attractions and beautiful buildings.

7. Lincoln, England

Back in the day this city was actually a pretty big deal, in fact it housed the world’s tallest cathedral for over 250 years, along with a castle, two universities and plenty more attractions. Visitors will want to pay a visit to the incredible cathedrals as it boasts amazing stained glass windows, an interior full of intricate carvings in stone and wood, and the ruins of the Bishop’s Old Palace beside it. It is here where you will find 14th and 15th century medieval buildings as well as the oldest bridge in England to have houses built upon it. Don’t miss out of ‘Steep Hill’, a street full of small independent shops. Lincoln is also home to one of the only four surviving copes of Magna Carta, dating back to the 13th century and visitors here should plan a trup to Lincoln Castle and discover a piece of human history.

Lucian Milasan / Shutterstock.com
Lucian Milasan / Shutterstock.com

6. Cardiff, Wales

It is one of the most pleasant cities in the UK, boasting a magnificient castle, innovative architecture and great people. This Welsh capital once started as a Roman fort and since the 11th century the Cardiff Castle has held court where the fort once stood. It has not been considered a pretty city by any means in the past but times are changing and major regeneration projects have been occurring over the past decade. Think a brand new performing center, a revamped waterfront and a 74,000 seat stadium; just to name a few. The free National Museum Cardiff should absolutely be on your list of things to do in this city, as well as attend one of the infamous rugby matches. Markets, awesome dining options, impressive accommodations await visitors to this city which is becoming more beautiful as time goes on.

Cardiff, Wales

5. Sheffield, England

This city isn’t known for its castles, souped up riverside docks, cobbled streets or typical tourist attractions, but there is a lot to Sheffield that makes it both unique and fun to visit. Plan on arriving here by train where you are greeted by a stunning waterfall just outside the station. Visitors will want to head to the Winter Garden-the largest urban glass house in Europe-home to over 2,000 plants from around the world. There also happens to be more than 250 parks, woodlands and gardens throughout the city, giving this city the highest ratio of trees to people of any city in Europe. Did we mention that it is also home to the world’s oldest football club? Throw in the medieval Anglican cathedral, two theatres, a slew of restaurants and pubs and some of the friendliest people in the north and you have yourself one pretty epic city.

Sheffield, England

4. Belfast, Ireland

It has been avoided, forgotten and underrated for the better part of half a century. But this city is slowly making a new name for itself as it reinvents itself with award-winning architecture, a vibrant restaurant scene and lovely locals. This small and walkable city encourages visitors to stroll through its beautiful botanic gardens and the cobbled Cathedral Quarter that teams with restaurants, pubs and arts venues. Visitors will not want to miss a visit to the Metropolitan Arts Centre which is a shining star in terms of stunning architecture, an asymentrical tower of brick and volcanic stone that houses seven stories of high-ceilinged galleries and unique reading nooks. Massive regenerations projects have improved the old dockyards, Victoria Square and the waterfront, which boasts some of the most impressive nightlife in the UK.

Belfast

3. Chester, England

This city is more than 2,000 years old which means plenty of history, culture and architecture await visitors here. Chester boasts the more complete city walls in the country, the largest undiscovered ampitheatre in the UK and a slew of breathtaking medieval buildings. It is easy to walk around this city as the Roman grid pattern of streets have survived the years, and trust us you will want to walk in order to take in the historic towers and gates that adourn the Roman walls. Chester Cathedral is located in the heart of the city and deserves a visit, as does the beautiful River Dee, Roodee Racecourse and the pretty Grosvenor Park. Hit up the independent galleries and boutiques, dine on local Cheshire produce and stay in anything from a luxury hotel to a quaint cabin in this beautiful, yet highly underrated English city.

Chester, England

2. Nottingham, England

It is best known as the home of Robin Hood, but that is about it and tourists tend to skip by this charming English town. The men in tights are long gone in this city and instead you will find a castle, which sits atop a labyrinth of ancient tunnels, England’s oldest inn- Ye Olde Trip to Jeruslaem- which is built into a cliff face and is said to have a chair that makes any woman pregnant, and much more. Visitors will want to head to the Galleries of Justice Museum where you can explore the gruesome history of crime and punishment. Or how about the City of Caves, where you will descend far below street level and discover just a few of the 500 man-made sandstone caves that date back to medieval times. Beautiful buildings include Wollaton Hall, Newstead Abbey and Nottingham Castle.

Nottingham caves

1. Stirling, Scotland

Stirling is Scotland’s heritage capital, a place where the Wars of Independence were fought and won and where for three centuries monarchs ruled in regal splendor. This cobbled old town in much quieter than Edinburgh and offers much in the way of history, architecture, culture and attractions. Visitors will find themselves winding their way up to the dominant castle which offers an incredible view for miles. Keep your eye out for the Wallace Monument, a Victoria Gothic creation that was made to honour the legendary freedom fighter of Braveheart fame, and looks so gothic it deserves at least a a few circling bats. Take a ghost walk, visit the museum and gallery, go whisky tasting or hang with the monkeys at the safari park. Whatever you do though, don’t miss exploring the Old Town and the picturesque path that encircles it.

Stirling, Scotland monument

UNESCO’S 15 Most Beautifully Designed Cities In The World

Designations from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization are much sought after by cities around the world. Its best known one is the World Heritage Site that calls on signatories to protect and preserve important monuments from a small church to a vast jungle. Less well known but still dandy for planning itineraries is the Creative Cities Network in which cities receive a special designation if it can prove its creative specialty is unique of important cultural and economic significance and is sustainable. One of the most intriguing is Design. UNESCO has identified 15 Cities of Design that “(place) creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans.” It is about not just the urban space but the things that fill space that, to meet UNESCO criteria must enhance the quality of life for people and be environmentally sustainable. And of course make a whole bunch of seriously cool stuff. Here are, in UNESCO’s estimation the 15 most aesthetically pleasing and innovative Cities of Design.

15. Montréal, Canada

The genius of some of the world’s great architects dot the Montreal skyline despite the civic edict that no building exceeds the height of Mont Royal under whose slopes the city was founded in 1642. I.M Pei’s Place Ville Marie still dominates the downtown more than 50 years after its debut. Other stellar works include Mies van der Rohe’s Westmount Square, Buckminster Fuller’s stunning Geodesic Dome and Moshe Sadie’s Habitat, the latter two built for the 1967 World’s Fair has found new life. Old Montreal by the Old Port is a treasure of preserved 19th century buildings on cobblestone streets. It is the home of the Canadian Centre for Architecture as well as the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design at l’ Université de Montréal. UNESCO calls Montreal “The City of Designers” with 25,000 people in design development in one of the most stylish cities in North America.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

14. Buenos Aires, Argentina

For architecture fans and design geeks, Buenos Aires is already heaven. One of its iconic historic buildings, Palacio Barolo is an homage to the Dante’s 15th century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy with the Hell, the ground floor with flame images on the walls, to the mid-level office space, called Purgatory and the upper floors with their fantastic views of the great city being ‘Paradise.” It has a stable of great works on its skyline built in a jumble of Old World Styles from Renaissance to Art Deco. The Planetarium and Women’s Bridge continue the creative tradition into the 21st century. UNESCO notes with praise the use of government incentives to grow the design industry which now accounts for almost a tenth of the giant city’s Gross Domestic Product and “contributes to turning Buenos Aires into a benchmark of design in Latin America: while fostering inclusive and sustainable development.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

13. Curitiba, Brazil

This city of 3 million people in southern Brazil is at the forefront of sustainable urban development in the world. Already a cultural and design center, UNESCO singles out the city’s innovation for “Recognizing design as an agent for urban transformation.” In this context the term “design” goes beyond buildings in post-modern, futuristic shapes to the materials used to make them. The sustainable city mission was begun by architect and three-term, Curitiba Mayor Jaime Lerner and inspired similar initiatives across the country. Lerner combined an overhaul of mass transit and garbage collection with the promotion of alternative building materials to streamline costs and provide affordable housing. An, NGO (Nongovernmental Organization) Curadores da Terra or Keepers of the earth has developed a process that turns the environmental plague of plastic bottles into a popular, inexpensive building material.

Curitiba, Brazil

12. Bilbao, Spain

What leaps to mind at the Mention of Bilbao, is the beautiful jumble that is the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry, one of the most famous and renowned pieces of architecture since it opened in 1997. In fact the whole process of reclaiming former heavily industrial urban areas that are in decline or abandoned has come to be called “The Guggenheim Effect, the great Museum reclaimed a derelict section of the old port for a sustainable addition to the city’s tourism infrastructure. The policy continues with the Alhondiga, a beautiful wine warehouse from 1909 on the verge of demolition but rescued and turned into a multi use cultural facility in 2010. Bilbao’s approach using design and technology to transition from an old industrial economy to a modern service economy is the model UNESCO wants more cities to follow, the creation of “major cultural facilities contributing to the economy in terms of wealth creation, employment and social well-being.

Migel / Shutterstock.com
Migel / Shutterstock.com

11. Turin, Italy

Italy has been at the forefront of global design since they built the Roman Senate in 753 BCE. Turin has been called the Detroit of Italy, the home of great automotive brands like Fiat and Alfa Romeo. And like its American counterpart it experienced economic crisis and depopulation in the 1980’s. Still with about the same GDP as the country of Croatia, Turin has used its accumulated wealth  expertise and world class schools to move upstream into more sustainable, knowledge based industries, most notably aerospace. Several of the International Space Station modules were designed here. The greatest symbol of the city’s rejuvenation and transition is the fabulous Lingotto Fiere, which remains futurists despite being nearly a century old. Even Le Corbusier the great French architect raved about it. The old Fiat plant opened in 1922, but then became outmoded in the seventies and eventually closed in the 80’s. It reopened as a multi-use complex, including a hotels, concert halls art gallery shopping mall and a campus for the world renowned Polytechnic University of Turin.

Turin, Italy

10. Graz, Austria

Graz is already home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Eggenberg Castle is a grand historical work in the Baroque style. The Old Town is an impeccably preserved wealth of centuries of buildings in wide range of architectural styles. But the small city of 300,000 isn’t resting on those fortunate laurels of the distant past. UNESCO’s website is prone to thick bureaucratic gibberish, but the spirit of the initiative comes through in statements like noting a fashion festival “is committed to cultural exchange on the textile level.” It’s just an example of the injection of sustainability into everyday goods that is providing the basis of The Next Economy in First World places that can afford to lead the way. Consider it the next Industrial Revolution. The Creative Sector in Graz has almost 5,000 companies, mostly small and medium size that generate about $700,000,000 in additional revenue allowing the city to commission innovative, iconic works of architecture that goes beyond fancy buildings for the sake of being fancy to making intelligent design that “and values both the aesthetic component of design as well as its ability to make daily life more livable.”

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

9. Berlin, Germany

Berlin has been one of the creative centers of the world for centuries and is now becoming leader in Design with some 2,400 companies been over $400,000,000 in annual revenue. Its International Center for Design is focused on what it believes is the way of the future: “Environmentally-conscious design is thus the key to a sustainable society.” At its heart is the emerging consumer behaviour called LOHAS “Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability” as individuals seek out healthier lifestyle and environmentally sensitive choices. They have become a world leader in ‘eco-design…to optimize energy efficiency, to minimize pollution emission and waste production.” There are 5000 Design students in the city’s elite schools. Berlindesign.net acts as an independent, fair trade platform for hundreds of independent Berlin designers from fashion to furniture to food. It’s all based on a highly innovative business plan called the “Triple Bottom Line,” in which design marketing and pricing reflect not just profit margins but ecological, economic and social concerns as well.

Berline Germany, Spree River

8. Helsinki, Finland

Design is embedded in the Finnish soul. Or as the Guardian wrote “Design is to Helsinki as literature is to Dublin and samba is to Rio.” Scandinavia in general is known for its modernist, minimalist furniture but Finland itself with a population of 5.5 million has given the world two of its greatest architects, Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. The Finnish capital is an architectural garden of delights. Volumes have been written about the Finns creativity but UNESCO pointed to two things in particular that propelled Helsinki to 2012’s World City of Design status. One, Design is a government priority. The Finnish Innovation Fund stimulates the sector to design solutions to a wide variety of public policy issues from sustainability to education. It especially notes the inclusion of passengers in the process of designing the seats on the transit system.

Helsinki, Finland

7. Dundee, Scotland

A charter member of the global Rust Belt of once vibrant juggernauts of heavy industry, Dundee was made the United Kingdom’s first Creative City of Design. It is a case study in urban reinvention in knowledge based economic sectors and an example of just how broad the discipline of design has become. The booming shipbuilding and textile industries have given way to biotechnology and digital media. Dundee is home to one of the largest teaching hospitals in the world as well as the company that produced the hugely popular video game called Grand Theft Auto. The city is spending 1.5 billion dollars on revitalizing its waterfront, including a striking  Museum Of Design with the goal of making the city an international design center, creatively financed by government and private sector funding.

Dundee, Scotland

6. Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen’s skyline shimmers with stunning, cutting edge architectural design as befits to an emerging innovative powerhouse of 11 million people. The Stock Exchange, the Asian Cairns and the Oct Museum push the design envelope. In southern China close to Hong Kong, design is a multi-billion dollar business employing 100,000 people. A generation of Chinese designers were trained here and excel in a wide spectrum of disciplines, women’s fashion being the most notable but that includes crafts, jewelry and toys. The city has moved upstream into creative, knowledge-based sectors, finance primarily among them as integration with the wealth creation machine that is Hong Kong.

Shenzhen, China

5. Shanghai, China

The Shanghai Design Show is Asia’s biggest and most important attracting the world designing elite, from Jaguar to Nike to Cognac giant Martell. A truly international city home to 25 million people faces enormous challenges in sustainable development. But it has a huge creative sector to meet those challenges and develop sectors that add about $40 billion to the city’s GDP. UNESCO notes that the city was the Chinese leader in creative sectors such as film and music. It takes one look at Shanghai’s dynamic skyline to grasp the tremendous creative power the city is harnessing under the aegis of the Municipal Commission of Economy and Technology. Shanghai’s Creative Cites page boasts 87 Creative Clusters, over 4,000 innovative design-related agencies and institutions, 283 art institutions, 239 art and cultural community centers, 100 museums, 25 libraries and 743 archive institutions. It is perhaps Exhibit A of a city growing its economy by investing in Design.

Top Cities 2013 - Shanghai

4. Kobe, Japan

There is a 21st century about the Kobe skyline partly because of its innovative nature and sadly, from a major rebuild after the catastrophic earthquake in 1995. But in one form or another the city has been adept at self-reinvention through history. As an open port it has absorbed the influence of many cultures and has long been regarded as a cosmopolitan city. There is an old saying that says, “If you can’t go to Paris go to Kobe.” Like the French city to which it’s compared, Kobe is a fashion design center. Kobe Biennale is a major annual art and design event that aims to use the twin disciplines “not only to promote the arts, but also to contribute to the enrichment and environment of Kobe.” In 2015 a number eclectic competitions were held for Art-in-a Box, using old containers as a kind of urban canvas; creative toys, ceramic art, comic illustration and ‘green’ art.

Kobe, Japan

3. Nagoya, Japan

One of the rare cities that has managed to retain its blue collar and artistic pedigrees. It is home to major Toyota and Mitsubishi auto plants as well as traditional Japanese theater, cuisine and craft work dating back to medieval times. All under the magnificent watch of the fabulous 17th century Nagoya Castle. Even the modern manufacturing systems are based on the old Japanese principle of Monozukuri which Toyota defines as “manufacturing which is in harmony with nature and that is value adding for the society… the older sister of sustainable manufacturing.” Also unlike many others on the list, Nagoya can claim a design specialty. An army of engineers advance robot technology as well as a sector that discovers and designs new materials. UNESCO lauds its combination of tradition and the philosophy of Humanism with advanced technology.

Nagoya, Japan

2. Seoul, South Korea

The economy of South Korea is an aggressively powerful export machine barging into giant-dominated sectors like cars and cellphones. Seoul, the dynamic capital, is home to three-quarters of the country’s designers. Seoul’s design sector is heavy on IT related products now honing fashion and digital home appliance design. City government policy acts as a facilitator linking design companies with its thriving industrial base. Dongdaemun Design Plaza is like a modern Silicon Valley of design and creative expertise that not only serves as an incubator for innovation, but transformed one of the city’s oldest, most historic districts.

Top Cities 2013 - Seoul

1. Beijing, China

Far and away the most controversial and debatable of UNESCO’s designations is Beijing, China. However, UNESCO notes the city’s 3000 years rich with history. The architecture and design of the venues for the 2008 Olympics were spectacular but remain underused and unable to be integrated into the city fabric. Meanwhile the brutally bulldozing of the city’s legendary hutongs or traditional neighborhoods of narrow alleys have been documented in books and documentaries. UNESCO cites the huge number of museums and creativity clusters “bearing in mind their relevance for sustainable development.”

Beijing, China

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

There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup on a chilly day, so as the seasons change in the northern hemisphere and the air starts to exhibit that nip we know means that winter is coming, we start to search for warmth anyway we can. For many, soup isn’t just a seasonal favorite but rather a go to meal any time of year, and each country/region/cuisine has their own local specialties. Chowders are notorious to the American East coast while in India you’ll find spice-filled delights like Mulligatawny and Rasam, so take a global tour this Fall without having to leave the comfort of your own home with these international soups that are guaranteed to warm and delight.

10. Bouillabaisse -France

If you’re looking for an impressive soup to serve to company or you’re crazy about seafood, this French soup is sure to satisfy. Bouillabaisse originates from the city of Marseille, France where fishermen would make this seafood stew using the left over fish they were unable to sell to markets or restaurants. The dish blends several types of local fish and shellfish such as mussels and crabs with fish stock and a selection of Provençal herbs and spices.

Bouillabaisse

9. Caldo Verde -Portugal

This popular type of Portuguese soup combines potatoes, kale, olive oil and salt and will not only warm you but also fill you up on those cold Autumn evenings. Often, sausage or ham hock is added to the soup at the end of cooking to make it an even more filling meal. In Portugal, you’ll find this soup typically served during celebrations such as birthdays, weddings and festivals like the Festival of St. John of Porto.

Caldo Verde

8. Cullen Skink -Scotland

This thick Scottish soup is filled with smoked haddock, potatoes and onions along with milk or cream for a hearty satisfying soup that really ‘sticks to your ribs’. Cullen Skink originated in the town of Cullen in Moray Scotland but the dish is now a popular everyday dish throughout the northeast of the country. This soup is considered more assertive than an American fish chowder and heartier than a French bisque.

Cullen Skink (2)

7. Fasolada -Greece

Fasolada is a traditional Greek bean soup that’s often called the “national food of the Greeks”. While recipes vary widely, the original version of ancient Greece blended dried white beans, olive oil and grains with vegetables like carrot, celery and onions and was served as an offering to the Greek God Apollo during the Pyanopsia festival in Athens.

Fasolada

6. Harira -Morocco

Harira is a popular tomato based soup from Morocco and Algeria where the dish is commonly eaten as a starter before a meal or as a light snack. The main components of Harira are tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, onions, rice, meat (usually lamb or beef) and flour for thickening. Herbs and spices are also added and vary depending on region but typically they include parsley, coriander, saffron, ginger, pepper, turmeric and cumin.

Harira

5. Mulligatawny -India

Mulligatawny may be an English spin on an Indian tradition but it’s still delicious none the less! The funny sounding name comes from the Tamil words mullaga and thanni which translate to ‘pepper-water’. Today’s version of this soup typically consists of chicken broth, curry powder, nutmeg and blended lentils and vegetables. The original Indian dish this soup was based on wasn’t actually a soup at all, but rather a sauce that was served over rice.

Mulligatawny

4. Tom Yum -Thailand

This traditional Thai hot and sour soup is a favorite not only in Thailand but also in Laos and throughout other neighboring countries. The soups distinct base is made from stock that’s simmered with fragrant herbs and spices like lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, fish sauce and fresh chilies. Vegetables and meats are added and very depending on region and recipe but commonly you’ll find chicken, beef, pork and shrimp.

Tom Yum

Laksa -Malaysia

Laksa is a spicy noddle soup popular in the Peranakan style of cuisine which is a blend of both Chinese and Malay cuisines. The popular curry Laksa combines a rich broth of curry spices and coconut milk with rice or laksa noodles, vegetables and meat such as chicken, fish, prawns or bean curd puff. This satisfying noodle soup is popular in Malaysia but variants are also found throughout Singapore, Indonesia and southern Thailand.

Laksa

2. Solyanka -Russia

Russia is known for hearty food and this popular spicy-sour soup is no exception. While there are 3 basic types of Solyanka, all of them contain pickled cucumbers with brine, cabbage and mushrooms. Meat Solyanka adds beef, ham, sausage or chicken along with tomatoes, onions, olives, capers, allspice, parsley and dill, while mushroom Solyanka sees layers of mushrooms and cabbage alternated and topped with grated lemon zest, breadcrumbs and butter before the soup is baked.

Solyanka

1. Clam Chowder -USA

Clam Chowder is an east coast favorite and one of the most popular soups in America. The New England clam chowder is a milk or cream based type that is usually a little thicker than other regional varieties and is usually topped or thickened with oyster crackers, a regional specialty. Diced potato, bacon, onion and celery are added to the clams and simmered until tender. In the New England region, adding tomatoes to chowder is frowned upon and in 1939, a bill was introduced to Maine legislature making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal.

Clam Chowder

The 11 Most Beautiful and Underrated Destinations in Western Europe

The upwards trend in European tourism shows a definitive increase in Western European tourism—the less visited half of the continent. Throughout the west, particularly the UK, France, Germany, and Spain, there have been more visitors over the last five years than ever before. It’s no wonder really, with the many amazing historical towns and villages, ancient castles, palaces, and forts, thriving backcountry, natural wonders, and so many other attractions. From Scotland’s islands to Portugal’s architecture and Italy’s renowned Riviera, Western Europe is rich with things to do and see.

11. Jungfrau Region, Switzerland

Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region is calculated by magnificent mountains, endless outdoor pursuits, and some of the most interesting resort towns on this side of Liechtenstein. Just an hour and a half south of Zurich and 45 minutes from Bern, Jungfrau is where intrepid travelers head for enterprising vacations. Area attractions include the Kleine Scheidegg watershed at the Eiger North Face foothills. It offers an out-of-this-world cable ride soaring from Grindelwald-First, spanning more than 2,600 feet to Schynige Platte, an area reached by 19th century cog wheel train from Interlaken, the starting point for hiking along the mountain pass. This isn’t a destination for idleness, or even half-hearted exploration. Jungfrau demands a lot from visitors who can move at a relatively quick pace—it’s not a place to stay still. It begs to be explored with enthusiasm and key attractions require some ambition, but it all pays off in spades.

Jungfrau Region, Switzerland

10. Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

The ebony-hued, interlocking basalt columns spanning the Causeway Coast in Ireland gave credence to legendary tales of a centuries-old route trekked by giants between Scotland and Ireland. Though the tales still run rampant between Irish generations, we can all acknowledge it’s one intensely cool natural marvel. More than 40,000 columns are located in this rich, seafront Northern Irish area which most agree was caused by a volcanic eruption centuries ago. Arriving to the coast is pretty exciting in itself, with a long, curving drive along the highway dotted with residential homes, shops, pubs, and striking natural sights—if you can take your eyes off the water and the road ahead. The vivid drives, cozy, small-town feel, extra friendly locals, and incredible hikes along the extensive cliff-top paths are endearing traits that make this area of Northern Ireland one-of-a-kind.

Giant's Causeway, Ireland

9. Cordoba, Spain

Travel styles vary from person to person but most get on board with marveling at architectural wonders, relishing savory food, delving into old bodegas, and enjoying easy tours of interesting places. Cordoba is magnified by Mezquita, an example of seasoned and worldly Islamic culture, and a site overlooking the city’s heart and drawing onlookers into its fabulously embowed interior. Arteries running throughout the Jewish Quarter (Juderia) reach away from the Mosque like central nerves but with finales upon extremely pleasant plazas. The center of town is the heart and soul of Cordoba, and where almost everyone will wander around, whether for a few hours or every day. Restaurants, bars, and shops are the center of social life here, where the strident vibe is magnetic. In fascinating contrast, west of town is Medinat al-Zahra, an Islamic ruin that piques the imagination with its gravity.

Cordoba, Spain

8. Bruges, Belgium

The medieval city of Bruges is a nostalgic reminder of Venice with long, narrow canals, awarding it the moniker “Venice of the North.” Exploring is akin to life in a fairytale—not only are the canals lovely but the buildings that compliment waterways are just as sublime, creating a picture-perfect scene you won’t want to step out of. Paint in some cobblestone lanes, historic churches, buzzing market squares, and whitewashed houses and you might never want to venture out of town. This loveliness doesn’t come without a price; the floodgates open for tourists each year—word  has been out for some time about the beauty of Bruges. With that in mind, most trek in during daylight hours and leave by sundown. To get your piece of Bruges, stay overnight and you’re privy to the emptiness and beautiful floodlights at dusk, giving an unequivocal air to the area.

Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com
Botond Horvath / Shutterstock.com

7. Sintra, Portugal

Perfectly tucked between the sea and mountains, Sintra is one of Portugal’s most naturally blessed cities and a destination most deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage site designation. Gleaming palaces, alluring gardens, and misty woodlands are each part of the appeal of Sintra, which is historically rich and filled with natural beauty. No wonder the Celts chose Sintra to exalt their god; the Moors constructed a dizzying castle, and the royals of 18th century Portugal luxuriated in its verdant hills and dreamy backdrop. Cultural attractions dot Sintra and the culinary landscape is beyond compare. The number of ancient fortifications and magnificent residences draw tourists in droves during the summer months. It’s worth contending with crowds in the thick of things, but there’s plenty of merit in seeing it outside of peak tourist season too.

Sintra, Portugal

6. Porto Santo, Portugal

While most island-lovers head to Portugal’s Madeira Island, there’s a little island northwest of it deserving of a lot of attention. Porto Santo is a small, Portuguese island—an ideal place to get your fill of blue skies, white sand beaches, and crystal water. In simple terms, Porto Santo is a slice of land hugged by 40+ kilometers of sand and flanked by a few resorts and hotels. There aren’t as many beautiful island destinations with so few visitors with such incredible scenery. There’s not too much in the way of attractions, which is music to an island-lovers’ ears. The small town square has some shops and a smattering of bars and restaurants. Along the beach, there are eateries and outdoor areas ideal for meals and cocktails. Otherwise, put your feet up, close your eyes, and prepare to daydream your time away.

Porto Santo, Portugal

5. Marsaxlokk, Malta

Marsaxlokk is a busy trading port established by Phoenicians in 900 BC, when they first arrived on Malta. It’s a tiny dot in the Mediterranean Sea, below Italy’s “boot,” seemingly kicked out into the vast ocean. Fish drives the economy so of course the port is the most important aspect of life where the daily grind is arduous and busy with fishermen supplying the entire island with fresh seafood. Whether you’re a seafood aficionado or just love fresh fish, visit the port when a huge market spills out each week, presenting an incredible variety of fresh food. This seaside town exemplifies a rare side of Malta, devoid of contemporary buildings to deter from its original appeal. The boat designs are said to be based on Phoenician blueprints, adding a captivating charm to their unique look. Stay awhile and enjoy life in the middle of the Mediterranean.

In Green / Shutterstock.com
In Green / Shutterstock.com

4. Portree, Scotland

Within the Isle of Skye in Scotland is Portree, the biggest island town and a thriving cultural hub and port with a small population. As with any port town, the harbor is the central point of activity, presenting a tight knit network of seafood restaurants and numerous pubs all with incredible waterfront views. The region is wild and unruly and best explored from Portree, a base where unwinding from adventurous excursions is easy and extra pleasant. Portree is near many of the island’s best outdoor attractions including the incredible Quiraing pinnacles, famous Kilt Rock, and northern Trotternish Ridge. Films, theater shows, and concerts are put on at Aros Center while the water plays host to boat cruises, swimming, and fishing. Take in some salty air and bed down at any of the town’s higher end hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, private apartment rentals, or even the nearby campground.

Portree, Scotland

3. Loire Valley, France

Historical tales of the Loire Valley in France paint a picture of opulence and indulgence. The royals, along with their large courts, used the valley as a stronghold, constructed magnificent fortifications, and built their grand residences throughout the wide, outstretched valley that today is strewn with some of the most impressive and lavish fortresses and castles in the country. Loire Valley is ripe with rural, dramatic, and architectural wealth. Skyscraping turrets, lush vineyards, and time-honored towns are all a part of a massive UNESCO World Heritage Site exemplifying 10 centuries of France’s history throughout a storybook landscape. If you’re looking for the finest example of history and architecture in the Loire Valley, look no farther than the mammoth and beautiful Chateau de Chambord, the valley’s most distinct attraction. The best modern highlights, besides award-winning wines, are the historical landmarks left behind by centuries of hedonistic aristocracies.

Loire Valley, France

2. Ronda, Spain

Within the Malaga region and set inside a tapering gorge is Ronda, once inhabited by some of history’s greatest people; the Arabs, Celts, Romans, and Phoenicians were taken with Ronda, pioneering the region with progressive philosophies and architecture. The historic district exemplifies the age of Arabs, with a fascinating medieval design dotting the southern reaches of Guadalevin river. More contemporary Ronda rose to its peak during the 16th century. The city is sprawled across Guadelevin’s north point, joined to the south by several magnificent bridges. Ronda will make you feel small (everything seems to vault skyward) but this Andalusian city is also empowering, a reminder of humankind’s powerful capabilities. Revel in incredible panoramas of El Tajo gorge from Puente Nuevo, explore maintained Arab bathhouses, and enjoy a meal while exploring Duquesa de Parcent Square, a modern center filled with ancient indications.

Ronda, Spain

1. Manarola, Italy

Across the bay from Monaco is Manarola, Italy, a little seaside town and the stuff of Old World dreams. Set between Nice and Genoa, there’s plenty around to get your fill of city life, but when looking for downtime, and a backdrop of vibrant architecture on the waterfront, Manarola is the place to be. From the water is a resplendent scene: a cluster of tall stone buildings in a rainbow of colors, set high across grassy cliffs and flanked by rugged shoreline. Manarola is part of the Italian Riviera called Cinque Terre where a series of five small coastal towns are connected via rustic hiking trails with ample vistas. Manarola is second in size within the streak of towns, it is also the oldest, and is marked by 14th century San Lorenzo church. Social centers include the town square and the busy little harbor and vineyards dot the entire area.

Manarola, Italy

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 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. Bahamas

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?

Dean's Blue Hole, Bahamas

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.

Photo by: Scapa Scuba
Photo by: Scapa Scuba

8. Greece

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.

Roy Pedersen / Shutterstock.com
Roy Pedersen / Shutterstock.com

7. Spain

Costa del Sol is known for luxurious resorts and hotels, beautiful beaches, fine dining and a 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, dive master 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.

Scuba Diving in Spain

6. Peru

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.

Mancora, Peru

5. Guatemala

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.

Lake Atitian, Guatamala

4. India

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 down time 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.

scuba 1

3. Philippines

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 sites 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.

Learning to Dive in the Philipphines

2. Thailand

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.

Soren Egeberg Photography / Shutterstock.com
Soren Egeberg Photography / Shutterstock.com

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 on board 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 with its tropical climate and laid back atmosphere also makes for a great vacation destination.

Great Barrier Reef