The Most Colorful Destinations In The World

There are many ways a place can delight the senses. The majestic height of a mountain. The power of a waterfall. The overpowering silence in the serenity of the wilderness. The raucous sounds of the jungle or an outdoor opera in a Roman amphitheater in Provence. But perhaps because it’s the most easily reproduced in the mind, the most indelible memories of all are the color of privileged moments in impossibly beautiful places. Waves crashing on shores sound the same everywhere. But the pristine blue and white of a beach on the Maldives shine forever. The fields of Lavender in Grasse do not need a photo to produce a fond recollection. Nor does the flaming orange sun melting into the Andaman Sea. It is not only natural phenomena that can take your breath away. The brilliant hues of the Sistine Chapel or the calliope of colors in the famous bazaars of Morocco never fade however old they become. No less a brand than the Smithsonian has diversified into a number of different revenue streams, including travel. Their stable of experts has designed tours on many different themes, one of which is The Most Colorful Destinations. None of the above are included, which, if nothing else, goes to show the Smithsonian experts don’t know everything. Doubtless, many of you will have other sites of color lodged in your hippocampus. No one is saying there are the only colorful places on Earth. But they make for a pretty good start.

10. Northern Lights, Thingvellir, Iceland

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The ghostly glow of the elusive aurora borealis have fascinated people for millennia. The celestial light show is caused by the collision of gas particles in the atmosphere. Named for the Roman Goddess of the Dawn, they can be best seen in remote northern locales, the renowned travel writer Bill Bryson chose Hammerfest Norway to see them recounts being bored stiff for days before he did. The Smithsonian picks Thingvellir, with its UNESCO World Heritage site National Park and ION Hotel with its neo-Scandinavian cuisine and more importantly, floor to ceiling windows in case of a sudden outburst in the sky. Seekers are at the mercy of weather not even all the Smithsonian experts in the world can control but prime time is said to be March-September.

9. Keukhenhof Gardens, Amsterdam, Holland

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The lovely myth about the origin of tulips is that they sprang from the Turkish steppes watered by the tears of a jilted lover. They originated there, were imported by the Danish Ambassador to Constantinople, and were the subject of the world’s first speculation bubble. The Dutch have raised them to an art form and Keukenhoff’s seven million, multi-hued blooms are rightly called The Greatest Flower Show on Earth.” New strains are bred every year and there are orchids, roses, lilies, and other blooms on display in the idyllic 79-acre park complete with ponds, streams, and landscaped pathways. It dates from the 15th-century herb garden tended by a countess in a nearby castle. A truly intoxicating experience for memorable sights and scents. A feast for the eyes and nose sounded a little clunky, don’t you think?

8. Cinque Terre, Italy

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Imagine a Friendly Italian Giant with a basket of gelato colored houses sprinkled the perch impossibly on the sheer cliffs of an ancient blue sea. That would be Cinque Terre (CHINK-way TERE-ah) or Five Lands, 5 fishing villages really dating from the 7th century until modern times linked only by the sea and a narrow footpath which makes a lovely hike for the many tourists who seek the place’s colorful charm and quiet. There is a train but no cars. High up the thigh of the Italian boot in the west coast region of Liguria which also gave the world pesto. Monterosso is the oldest and biggest, Vernazza the prettiest. The trail isn’t climbing Everest but it’s no walk in the park either with lots of ups and downs. A short boat ride south lies Portovenere with the same style of colorful building but a few stories higher than those of Cinque Terre.

7. Ngorongoro, Tanzania 

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The size and diversity of the herds who make the Great migration to this conservation area are staggering. Millions of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and Cape buffalo with lions, leopards, and cheetahs on the heels move to summer feeding grounds in the Tanzanian grasslands. The Ngorongoro (Masaai “Gift of Life”) Crater is a sanctuary for a wide variety of animals, birds of all kinds of sport, stripes, and hues, set with the rich colorful flora of the savannah and forests 2000 feet below the plain. Watch for the rare black rhinoceros and witness the splash of pink of flamingos, the golden straw-colored bristles on crowned cranes, the ostrich feathers that were once the height of fashion for European women. Even the traditional clothing of the Maasi appear to be in full bloom. An entire ecosystem like no other.

6. Monteverde, Costa Rica

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Another stunning, stellar ecotourism destination. Pound for pound acre for acre, few places offer more exotic biodiversity and natural beauty than Cost Rica. The Biological Reserve is a gorgeous cloud forest. A rich green canopy itself covered in mist sheltering a pristine paradise for birders and floraphiles. The Smithsonian itinerary says to expect to me “100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds (including 30 kinds of hummingbirds), and 2,500 species of plants (including 420 kinds of orchids), including the fascinating transparent Glasswing butterfly and the almost mythical brilliantly plumed resplendent quetzal. The quetzal was considered sacred in some Central American cultures. Though it sings and flies poorly, Mayan legend holds that the bird once sang with aching beauty but went silent at the brutal Spanish conquest of the 16th century. It prophesied the singing would resume when the land and people regain their complete freedom.

5. Forbidden City, Beijing

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Though it may seem overmatched by transparent butterflies and Dutch tulips, the Forbidden City’s distinctive yellow roof tiles and iconic architecture are a fac9nating study in the historical and cultural significance of color. It lives on in one of the most relentlessly urbanizing cities anywhere, the largest surviving enclave of ancient wooden structures in the world a miracle that it still stands. Forbidden because no one was allowed to come or go without the express permission of the Emperor. The Yellow is in fact the color reserved for the Emperors’ buildings and clothes dating back to the Tang Dynasty of the 7th century. Red is the symbol of good fortune and despite the unspeakable horrors leaders have inflicted on their people, no other colorful setting is so deeply entrenched in a peoples’ ethos.

4. Machu Picchu, Peru

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There may be no more compelling sight to be had in this lifetime than dawn over the long-abandoned, still mysterious Incan site of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes with a foreboding grey sky and the Andean peaks as background. The United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural Organization calls it “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization.” Built by 1450, abandoned a century later, and undiscovered by Europeans in 1911The green of the land with the color of ancient stone set in an altitude in which hotels offer complimentary oxygen is like a Sistine Chapel in the sky.

3. Jatiluwih, Indonesia

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The color green is most often associated with Ireland. But that is with respect to a Eurocentric view. There may be no greener place on earth than the spectacular terraced rice fields of Bali. In Bali rice is not just another carb. It is a gift from the Gods and treated with great reverence. The Jatiluiwih fields are unforgettable, faultlessly manicured, bursting tropical green irrigated by the water by a lake so sacred, that even thinking, swimming or boating is sacrilegious.

2. Strasbourg, France

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Actually this lovely old city, now the capital of the European Union is the culmination of a cruise along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers which includes Christmas markets in beautiful historic towns such as Koblenz and Bernkastel. Strasbourg’s city center is yet another UNESCO Heritage Site and home to “Christkindelsmärik”, France’s oldest and Europe’s largest holiday market, dating from 1570. The decorated late Renaissance-era buildings are unforgettable with the backdrop of Notre Dame Cathedral recalling centuries-old celebrations. Stalls offer locally crafted Christmas artifacts as well as delicious food and wine from one of the great culinary capitals of the world. A splendid colorful gourmet Christmas with legendary Alsatian wines without the December deepfreeze. Strasbourg’s average temperature at that time of year is 37 Fahrenheit. A feast for the eyes and palate of any faith.

1. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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A teeming self-contained ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world. Home to a kaleidoscope of the brilliantly colored underwater life of fish, turtles, and the coral of the Reef itself.  Especially worthy of the top spot here because it sadly ranks highly as one of the most threatened by climate change. An incredible 1600 miles of coral, it is a staggering thought that this is the largest structure in the world created and inhabited by living organisms. From the smallest tropically colored fish the whales and dolphins, it could very well be Mother Nature’s most sublimely rendered palette of color. It has been compared to a rainforest of the sea.

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

 

Mind-Blowing African Walking Safaris

The time is now to rediscover the magic of the walking safari, the first kind of safari there ever was. Discover nature and wildlife using your own two feet, along with an experienced guide. From Kenya to Zambia to the mountains of Uganda and all the way down to South Africa, find out why your next safari should be a walking safari.

8. Tassia Walking Safaris, Kenya

If you are searching for a taste of unspoiled Africa, a Tassia Walking Safari is most definitely for you. The Tassia lodge is where the magic starts to happen, situated on the 60,000 acre Lekurruki Community Ranch, and is home base to all who want to experience a walking safari. The most exhilarating way to explore the area is by foot and Mart Wheeler lends his expertise to those wanting to get up close and personal with wildlife. Martin is an expert at tracking wildlife and will lead guests on rigorous treks and climbs. Expect to spot elephants, buffalo, giraffe, hyena and leopards here. Wheeler also offers an overnight fly camp safari into the Kenyan Bush where you will be treated to an evening under the stars as well as not just one but two walking safaris with ample opportunity for wildlife viewings.

Photo by: Tassia Lodge
Photo by: Tassia Lodge

7. Selinda Explorers Camp, Botswana

This small camp is located on a remote stretch of the Selinda Spillway, very close to the heart of the pristine 320,000-acre private Selinda Reserve and only caters to 8 people at a time. Four custom designed tents have been set up underneath the towering jackalberry and mangosteen trees and much effort has been made to rekindle the magic of a proper expedition camp. The majority of wildlife viewing activities is done via walking or canoe, with open vehicle game drives only when necessary. Each morning and late/evening is when the wildlife viewing it at is best and expects to see elephants, hippos, lions, zebras and more. Expect nothing short of a true African walking safari which makes you feel as though you have stepped back in time, just with better food, better drinks and beautiful accommodations.

Photo by: Great Plains Conservation
Photo by: Great Plains Conservation

6. Kitich Walking Safaris, Kenya

The tiny intimate Kitich Camp is located in the remote Mathews Range of forested mountains in Northern Kenya and walking safaris are the only choice offered here. The guides at this camp are known as masters of the forest, they know the trails intimately and can sense the wildlife before they see them. Like stated earlier, this camp avoids game drives and encourages guests to explore on foot. This mountain forest is home to a variety of animals including forest elephant, lion, buffalo, Melanistic leopard, Colobus monkey, waterbuck and zebra, as well as over 350 bird species. As an added bonus the cozy lounge at this camp overlooks the floodlit open river glade and at night guests can watch elephant, buffalo, bushbuck and the occasional leopard emerge from the forest to drink from the river.

Photo by: Kitich Camp
Photo by: Kitich Camp

5. Rhino Walking Safaris, South Africa

Guests here should be prepared for an intimate, quality, pristine wilderness experience while still lapping up luxury in 12,000 acres of pristine bush outside Kruger. Two highly qualified guides will share their wealth of knowledge on animals, trees, grasses, insects and birds as they take a maximum of eight guests on an incredible walking safari. Plains Camp is home base during the walking safaris and offers four East African Safari-style tents complete with elegant furnishings, treasure antiques and incredible food to eat. A cool plunge pool offers the chance to enjoy a cocktail while overlooking the plains between walks. Expect the walks in this safari to be upwards of four hours long as it is important to get the full hands on sensory experience. For an additional experience make sure you try out the platforms that allow you to sleep under the stars.

Photo by: Plains Camp - home of Rhino Walking Safaris
Photo by: Plains Camp – home of Rhino Walking Safaris

4. Selous Safari, Tanzania

Roughly the size of Switzerland, the remote Selous game reserve in south-east Tanzania is Africa’s largest protected wildlife reserve and one of the few places in the country to offer walking with camping. From rivers to open plains to woodlands to lakes and even hot springs, the variety of wildlife found here is simply overwhelming. By day guests will walk with the ranger to a secluded location where you will find your camp set up. Evenings will bring drinks around the campfire, eating under the stars and sleeping in the wild. Days are spent with gentle hikes in the cooler part of the days, searching out wildlife viewing opportunities. This is no luxury safari; frills are kept to the essentials; good simple food, cold drinks and a comfortable bed-roll. The trade off is an opportunity to see wildlife in their true habitat, alongside a knowledgeable guide.

Photo by: The Selous Safari Company
Photo by: The Selous Safari Company

3. Buffalo Camp, Zambia

North Luangwa National Park is one of the last unspoilt true wilderness areas left in Africa, and best explored by foot. Renowned by its huge herds of buffalo and other species, this park deserves to be discovered. The seasonal bush camp is only open from June to October and its recommended you stay at least 3 nights to get the full experience. The walking safaris normally last about 4 hours per day and are led by a highly trained Zambian guide as well as an armed Zambia Wildlife Authority guard. Accommodations are six chalets all overlooking the Mwaleshi River and as of the past two years are now a part of the Black Rhino Sanctuary, which allows visitors to live amongst the last of these critically endangered animals.

Photo by: Kapishya Hot Springs & Buffalo Camp
Photo by: Kapishya Hot Springs & Buffalo Camp

2. Anabezi Luxury Tented Camp, Zambia

Most people when they think of walking safaris think of the bare necessities but Anabezi Luxury Tented Camp is changing that. Although this company offers vehicle safaris as well, they are well-known for their walking safaris. At base camp visitors will be treated to swimming pools, a large game viewing deck, two large common decks with fireplaces, and large luxurious tents that feature indoor and outdoor bathrooms, teak beds, private deck with pool and beautiful furnishings. Experienced guides will take visitors through the surrounding areas on foot exploring the different flora and wildlife by daylight. Or choose to take a safari by canoe, with a guide and explore the wildlife on the riverbank as you paddle gently downstream. This luxury safari is the perfect mix of walking, canoeing and vehicle guided treks.

Photo by: Anabezi Camp
Photo by: Anabezi Camp

1. Nkuringo Walking Safaris, Uganda/Rwanda

Developed in 2007 as a sustainable tourism initiative, Nkuringo Walking Safaris pairs incredible guides with groups of visitors in a multi-day trek to view some of the most beautiful animals in the world, gorillas. Join one of many walking safaris that this company offers, including a 10 day journey that takes visitors to Bwindi The impenetrable Forest that is home to mountain gorillas. Participants of this safari will stay overnight in tents, dine on delicious food and witness some of the most amazing creatures in the forests, including the Golden Monkey. This is not your typical walking safari where treks only last a few hours, in some cases you will be required to walk upwards of 8 hours and therefore participants must be in good shape. In return, you will be treated to an experience of a lifetime.

Photo by: Nkuringo Walking Safaris
Photo by: Nkuringo Walking Safaris

9 Things to See and Do in Serengeti National Park

Africa’s Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is one of the most famous parks in the world and the ultimate destination for game drives or witnessing the astounding, annual Great Migration. Boundless plains punctuated with spiky acacia trees, Serengeti kopjes, hippo and crocodile-laden rivers, and a landscape home to the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo, and elephants) and more than 475 bird species–it’s no wonder the Serengeti precedes its reputation as a wildlife haven. Overnighting in a safari tent under the stars can be an exhilarating experience itself .

9. Book a Game Drive

Games drives are the quintessential experience in Serengeti National Park and hands-down the best way to catch sight of the Big Five along with scores of other animals and absorb the magic of the plains. The options are endless it seems when searching for the right drive (be sure to do your research and catch up on plenty of reviews before booking). Making a sight-seeing priority list is a great way to narrow your focus down to what you want to see–not all areas of the park are the same and some take longer to get to than others. Roads are rough and distances long so visitors should note that the African massage is almost inevitable at some point. Professional guides can make a great trip into a fantastic one with their skill for spotting wildlife and explaining the ecosystem and animals in depth.

game drive africa

8. Explore the Serengeti Visitor Center

Visitors’ centers can be a treasure trove of information but sometimes get left out of the picture because so many are very underwhelming. The Serengeti Visitor Center features a walking path for self-guided walks where exhibits and detailed signs educate on Serengeti history, its wildlife, and the ecosystem. There’s also a very good chance of spotting wildlife on route and a wealth of smaller critters like vibrant agama lizards and birds. The center also offers a really nice picnic area with tables with thatch umbrellas for shade, washrooms, and a gift and coffee shop at the Seronera Park headquarters. The center is a great place to stretch your legs, burn off some energy, and enjoy some insight into the history of the plains.

Serengeti Visitor Center

7. Explore a Maasai Village

The semi-nomadic Maasai people, who live in the Great Rift Valley along northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, have a long history with the Serengeti plains and ecosystem. They are East Africa’s most renowned tribe because of their villages’ close proximity to many favored game reserves, they’re dedication to traditional practices, and their vibrant and unmistakable attire. The villages, called bomas, are open to visitors–the Maasai are friendly people–who are engaged by learning about the Maasai way of life: traditions, customs, and lifestyle. A typical village visit generally includes a look at a local school, a short dance ceremony, and the chance to peruse and buy some locally made traditional handicrafts (an important source of income for the Maasai). While some visits might be fairly authentic, some can feel choreographed and commercial. This is one activity that requires some thought before committing.

Maasai Village

6. Take a Night-Time Game Drive

The Serengeti is filled with nocturnal animals that cannot be seen during daytime game drives. Booking a night drive is the only way to see the extensive number of nocturnal animals living throughout the area include aardvarks, civets, bush babies, nightjars (birds), and maybe even some hunting predators (now that’s an incredible sight!). There are also hyena, jackals, impala, giraffes, foxes, and zebra–there’s quite a list of night-loving animals. Night drives aren’t permitted directly in the park yet some outfitters have permission to operate them on the very outskirts of the park, offering a much different perspective. Without any park fencing, the outskirts still afford great opportunity to see the likes of almost any animal found within park boundaries. The thrill of glowing eyes and the sound of wildlife at night is pretty spectacular and also a terrific way to beat the heat.

lions at night

5. Witness the Moru Kopjes

The plains of central Serengeti are home to Moru kopjes that look like miniature mountains or small islets in an ocean of grass. Bushes, trees, and vines rise out of these interesting, seasoned, and massive rock formations which provide small pools of water, shade, and a necessary vantage point for hunters like cheetahs, lions, and leopards. The Moru kopjes are the most popular and most often visited kopjes, some which are adorned with paintings created by cattle herding Maasai. On game drives, guides are usually quick to point out the kopjes–grab a pair of binoculars and take a look as they’re a great place to spot not only big cats but small mammals too. Kopjes are also a particularly favored spot of the black rhino and the kopjes are the best spot in Serengeti National Park to see them.

Moru Kopjes
Photo by: Africa Dream Safaris

4. Hear the Call of the Wild

Staying overnight in safari tent can be an exceptional experience if sleeping outdoors isn’t unnerving. Rustling elephants, chirping crickets, jackal’s yelping, cries of African eagles, and the mighty roar of lions is just the beginning of the magical sounds to be heard when overnighting in the Serengeti. A basic tent will set you back approximately $50 USD for the campsite and accommodation or pay up to $1000 USD per night for the ultimate luxury tents with Egyptian cotton sheets, luxe furnishings, and a cook on hand–the location means much more than the tent though so going basic is good enough. There are plenty of to choose from: you can get settled after a day of game driving and enjoy a bush dinner onsite under the stars, and even take a night drive afterwards–choices broad and so is everyone’s idea of a perfect safari experience.

Serengeti camp

3. Visit Olduvai Gorge

In the Arusha region in the eastern part of the Serengeti Plains is Olduvai Gorge, a paramount paleoanthropological location where human fossils and ancient tools dating back more than two million years were discovered by famous anthropologist Louis Leakey in 1929. This discovery is said to have been invaluable in expanding our understanding of Human evolution. The extensive gorge was excavated thoroughly and more than 60 fossil remains of human ancestors were discovered. The gorge is located in the Great Rift Valley, a plummeting ravine spanning s48 kilometers in length–its just over 40 kilometers from another significant archaeological point called Laetoli where volcanic ash has preserved ancient human footprints. Just a few kilometers south of the park’s border, Olduvai Gorge is a handy place to stop for anyone traveling between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

Olduvai Gorge

2. Take a Balloon Safari Over the Plains

One of the best ways for an aerial view of Serengeti National Park is to take a hot air balloon to the skies. The entire, magnificent park expanse is in sight, albeit, for a hefty price with the added “bonus” of a glass of champagne and a full breakfast. Hot air balloons take off at dawn–a great time to see lots of movement on the ground. The rides aren’t too long but entirely worth it if you’ve got the means. Leaving at dawn, riders are afforded a phenomenal view as the sun rises over the plains and comes to an end when the sun starts really heating up. As it peaks out over the landscape, the balloon will come down and level but with the treetops for n excellent view of the animals before they seek shelter from the heat of the sun.

balloon ride africa

1. Observe the Great Migration

If planning a visit to Serengeti National Park to see the Great Migration at Mara River (the most dramatic event) is in any way possible, make it happen. This fantastic spectacle is a migration of herds of millions of ungulates (hoofed animals) including zebras, wildebeests, gazelle, and impala. It is do-or-die for the weakest and most unlucky can get dragged down by crocodiles, pulled from herds by predators, or just too young or feeble to complete the journey. This natural and epic occurrence isn’t a one-time show but a cyclical, never-ending event that begins with calving season, then to searching for grasses, and on to mating. Then herds return to their point of origin in southern Serengeti and northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Be sure to let your guide know you want to see it since timing and movement are heavily dependent on weather and herds can be unpredictable.

Great Migration

15 of the Best Outdoor Hotel Pools in the World

Outdoor hotel pools don’t need to be square concrete blocks, littered with screaming children and leaves that haven’t been scrapped off the bottom, which are normally freezing cold. In fact, outdoor hotel pools can be downright beautiful. From the ever popular infinity pools that look over the sides of cliffs, to rooftop pools so high up you forget what lies below; these outdoor pools are wonderfully unique in their own ways. Discover 15 of our favorite outdoor pools, and before long you will be booking a night, just to try out the pool.

15. Hotel Caruso -Salerno, Italy

This open-air infinity pool is brilliantly blue in color and creates the perfect atmosphere for hotel guests to relax. The pool is set atop the highest point of Ravello, seemingly suspended in the clouds, halfway between heaven and earth. It overlooks the breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Getting to the pool is just as beautiful as the pool itself as guests will have to wander through a rose garden. Complete with medieval ruins towering beside the pool, you will simply feel as you have fallen back in time. Make sure to indulge in the fresh-fruit appetizers that will be delivered to you poolside, or request a pre-loaded iPod with your choice of music. A visitor here can even get an Evian vaporizer delivered to them while they are in the pool. This is luxury at its finest.

Photo by: Belmond Hotel Caruso
Photo by: Belmond Hotel Caruso

14. The Oberoi Udaivilas -Udaipur, India

Spread over a 50 acre wildlife preserve is this wonderful hotel in India that features not one but two impressive pools. Guests here will be privy to amazing scenery, wildlife and exceptional service. The first pool runs lengthwise along the interconnecting domes and corridors that make up the hotel. This 70-foot pool is for guests that are staying in one of the semi-private pool rooms that allow access to this wonderful pool right from the room door. Private pool rooms are also available for those guests wanting their own private 36 foot plunge pool complete with dining area. The main pool at this hotel is stunning in deep blue tiles, set within a Mewar style courtyard with lush green lawns. The sandstone and marble tile patterns set off the sapphire blue color and truly make it a majestically centerpiece for this hotel.

Photo by: scupperssf via Flickr
Photo by: scupperssf via Flickr

13. Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti -Serengeti, Tanzania

As if staying at a safari lodge isn’t enough of an amazing experience, the Four Seasons have upped the ante with this awesome outdoor pool. This large sparkling blue free-form infinity pool is among favorites of visitors to this awesome safari lodge. The pool is the perfect break from your safari adventure, although it may not feel like much of a break from wildlife sightings as you watch over the watering hole that brings elephants, lions and other wildlife up close and personal. Relax in the cool waters, grab a cocktail from sunrise to sunset or relax in one of the sun beds on the deck. Watching a sunset from here is a favorite activity as the sky turns a brilliant pink and orange while the sun disappears. At night enjoy a romantic dinner poolside, complete with candles, lanterns and excellent dining options.

Photo by: Roman Boed via Flickr
Photo by: Roman Boed via Flickr

12. The Library -Koh Samui Island, Thailand

Located just a few steps away from the white sandy beaches is a pool that shines so brilliantly red, one would think that the water is dyed to be that color. This signature red pool is absolutely stunning to the naked eye and swimming here is an unforgettable experience. We promise, you aren’t swimming in dark crimson blood, although we admit it looks like that from a distance. It is in fact the stunning mosaic tiles that make it look so red, as the combination of the red, orange and yellow present a dazzling spectacle of brilliant color. This shallow pool is perfect for relaxing and gazing out at the beautiful blue water. The Library is also the only five-star hotel in Chaweng Beach and in addition to the amazing pool, the hotel itself is wonderful.

Photo by: The Library
Photo by: The Library

11. The Sarojin -Phang Nga, Thailand

This enchanting hotel is only reached by a hidden pathway and borders on five national parks, as well as a long sandy beach. The pool itself is surrounded by lush green gardens and tropical foliage and shimmers a gorgeous turquoise color under the bright sun. Private cabanas are placed in the shallow waters and come complete with sun beds, umbrellas, curtains that can be closed for privacy, towels and bar service. The blue mosaic tiles, the large vases growing beautiful flowers and the steps leading into the deeper water all make this pool incredibly beautiful. With warm water, a serene setting and a private cabana; you may never want to leave this hotel.

Photo by: Roderick Eime via Flickr
Photo by: Roderick Eime via Flickr

10. The Grace Santorini -Santorini, Greece

This exquisite infinity pool is the largest of its kind in Santorini and offers breathtaking views of the sea below. In typical Santorini fashion, the pool is outfitted in white and blue, a perfect combination of simplicity yet style. Chairs and table are places around the pool, at staggering heights to allow for the unparalleled views of the surrounding hills and water. The pool features both a shallow and deep end, for any type of swimmer. Make sure to check out the infamous Santorini sunsets that occur nightly, either from inside the pool or from the chairs. Food and beverage service is available around the pool all day and evening, and visitors are encouraged to spend their days enjoying it.

Photo by: Grace Hotels
Photo by: Grace Hotels

9. San Alfonso del Mar -Valparaiso, Chile

It holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crystalline pool, measuring over one kilometer in length, eight hectares and holds more than 250 million liters of water. Apart from the sheer size of it, the waters here are an amazing turquoise color and have the same transparency of those in the Caribbean. The water also happens to be an amazing 26 degrees Celsius in the summertime, the absolute perfect temperature for splashing around. The white sand beaches here are private to each of the buildings and recreate a tropical paradise. During the day you will find kids snorkeling, sailing in small boats and many recreational activities taking place in the biggest pool on earth. Make sure you book your room into one of the buildings that has access to the private beaches and pool, as some do not.

Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock.com
Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock.com

8. Amangani -Jackson Hole, United States

This legendary resort is Jackson Hole’s most exclusive resorts and it set seven thousand feet above sea level, carved into the hillside at Gros Ventre Butte. The 100-foot heated swimming pool operates year round and offers stunning views of Wyoming’s snow-capped peaks. During the summer visitors enjoy lounging in the crystal clear waters, taking in the surrounding scenery and watching out for wildlife, all with a cocktail in hand. During the winter guests take advantage of both the warm pool and the attached hot tub, which comes in handy after a long day of skiing in the area. At night the candles are lit and there is no where better to enjoy a bottle of wine than this awesome luxury pool.

Amangani, Wyoming

7. B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa -Zurich, Switzerland

This trendy 60-room boutique hotel features open spaces and a fabulous rooftop pool. It was once a 150 year old brewery. The hotel has managed to keep the aged stone walls and has refurbished the valves and bolts as clever décor elements. The natural thermal pool on the roof is really what visitors here love though. This uniquely shaped pool offers visitors unparalleled views over the city of Zurich, especially during the night. The pool is divided into different zones, all featuring different jets that relax and unwind you. There are enough nooks and crannies here that everyone can have their privacy. Although there are no surrounding loungers or service staff; the experience is unlike any other rooftop pool experience.

Photo by: B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa
Photo by: B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa

6. Marina Bay Sands Tower Pool -Singapore, Indonesia

It is hailed as the world’s largest rooftop pool at its height and sits high above the city of Singapore on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. If you don’t like heights, you may want to avoid this pool as it is 55 storey’s up in the air and more than three times the length of an Olympic pool. Did we mention that this pool is an infinity pool? This pool is part of the Sands SkyPark, a park that spans over all three hotel buildings and offers shops, restaurants and observation decks to the public. Building the SkyPark was one of the most expensive construction projects in history and once you see it, you can believe it. Unfortunately for the general public, the infinity pool is just open to hotel guests. With plenty of sun loungers, umbrellas, palm trees and dining choices, it is easy to spend an entire day on top of the world here.

Victor Maschek / Shutterstock.com
Victor Maschek / Shutterstock.com

5. Ubud Hanging Gardens -Bali, Indonesia

It is one of the most photographed pools in the world and it is no wonder why, as the architecture here is absolutely stunning. This pool won’t be for the faint of heart though as it jets out from the hotel, high above the treetops. It is a split-level infinity pool, the top half featuring a huge deck that flows out from the hotel. The bottom half is almost hidden from sight and creates the feeling of having a private atmosphere, complete with a waterfall. The curved pools were designed to replicate the steep terraced rice paddies that are such an iconic feature of this area of the world. There are a variety of benches and sun chairs around the pool and service staff is more than happy to bring guests food and drink. For the true romantic, you can even eat dinner on a floating dock in the lower level of this awesome infinity pool.

Photo by: Hanging Gardens UBUD
Photo by: Hanging Gardens UBUD

4. Habita Monterrey -San Pendro Garza Garcia, Mexico

These pools are located on the rooftop terrace of this modern boutique hotel and offer guests stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The infinity style pools run the length of the rooftop with a bar and eating area running down the middle to separate them. One of the pools is warm and perfect for relaxing while the other is slightly cooler and draws more swimmers serious about swimming laps. The concrete canopy above ensures that you aren’t sweltering up here and there is no better place to grab a cocktail after your swim than from the friendly bartender up on the roof, willing to make you just about anything you desire.

Photo by:  Hotel MTY
Photo by: Hotel MTY

3. Kempinski Hotel Ishtar -Amman, Jordan

This five star luxury hotel is situated on the edge of the famous salt lake, the Dead Sea and provides unlimited views across the sea. This resort doesn’t just offer one amazing pool though, it offers nine. The most popular pool here is the lazy river, which takes visitors around the resort. The sunken pool is the perfect place to relax, offering guests a fireplace in the middle and fringed with palm trees along the sides. The round infinity pool though is perhaps the most visually impressive and offers load of space to visitors looking to take a dip. All the pools here are surrounded by plush sun beds, extraordinary scenery and excellent service. It’s too hard to narrow down which of these pools is the best one, so we suggest trying them all.

Photo by: Dan Lundberg via Flickr
Photo by: Dan Lundberg via Flickr

2. Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor -Siem Reap, Cambodia

This colonial style hotel offers an escape from the city and features an authentic looking tropical pool. The saltwater pool here is surrounded by lush tropical gardens and soaring palm trees on one side, enough to make you forget that you are indeed in the middle of the city. There are enough sun beds on the other side for all guests and this tropical oasis manages to never feel crowded. The inviting lounge spills out onto the swimming pool terrace and most of the bedrooms horseshoe around the pool, giving lovely views to all who stay here. Most visitors love to pad around these tranquil grounds, sip a cocktail on the deck or go for a refreshing afternoon swim.

Photo by: Belmond La Residence D'Angkor
Photo by: Belmond La Residence D’Angkor

1. Hacienda Uayamon -Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

This wonderfully unique property is set ideally close to the Mayan site of Edzna, on Mexico’s stunning Yucatan Peninsula. It is hidden away in thick jungle foliage and ancient ruins and was created to retain some of the original charm of the former cattle ranch it was once. The pool is actually situated in a ruined part of the building and was once the main room. It has since been flooded with water and has become one of the most beautiful swimming pools in the world, with its crumbling stone walls and topless pillars. The absence of a roof means that light pours in all day to this pool and more often than not guests can been seen lounging in the provided hammocks. This setting is sure to relax and inspire you as your worries drift away in the clear turquoise waters.

Photo by: Julie Edgley via Flickr
Photo by: Julie Edgley via Flickr

THE Top 20 Places to Be in 2015

Early in 2015, the venerable New York Times published its list of ’52  Places To Go To This Year’. Its reasoning rested on the observation that “Untrammeled oases beckon, once-avoided destinations become must-sees and familiar cities offer new reasons to visit.” Its philosophy seems to be that it’s time to stop fighting our way into the overcrowded, stratospherically expensive established sites. Most of the list that follows features three qualities: great food, novelty and at least one United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site defined as “places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity”. There are 1007 UNESCO sites in all as of this writing and the places below contain almost 200 of them. Provence and Tuscany? How about Georgia with terrific wine, breathtaking scenery and enough history for a bus full of PhDs. Tired of the prices and lineups in Greece? There’s this little fishing village on the Turkish Riviera. It’s a great idea. Let’s change it up a bit here people. Do something original.  How about a feast of muskox on a sub-Arctic speck of rock in the North Atlantic? Beyond that there are some tourism plain Janes who have suddenly let down their hair and are proving to be quite fetching. And there’s a promising crop of the shunned or unavailable who are opening up their unseen treasures. The war in Sri Lanka, with its seven World Heritage Sites is over. The pariah state of Zimbabwe with its incredible wildlife, savannahs, is behaving. So, in the spirit of the Times, here are the best of the best. Twenty totally fresh ways to seriously renovate your travel itinerary:

20. Kas, Turkey

Less expensive than Greece, far less overrun than other places in the region, Kas is a happening place. This little fishing village on the Turkish Riviera, the Turquoise Coast is one of those ever-dwindling number of getaways where you can still get away. It has all the active seaside things you’d want: kayaking, trekking and serious diving (with wrecks and underwater sculpture). One Times reader called it “a must for nature lovers”. To firm up both the mind and the thighs, there are hikes along the Lycian Way to see tombs from the pre-Roman Empire. The elaborate ones carved into the mountainsides are extremely impressive and the best ones are a 45 minute drive away in Xanthos. Pronounced “Cash”, it won’t take a lot of yours to enjoy quality down time without the partying hordes.

Kas, Turkey

19. Baku, Azerbaijan

Begin with the walled city dating from the 12th century. UNESCO calls the 15th century Shuirvinshaj’s palace “one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture which reflects evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence”. Looming over the ancient streets is the gaudy modernity of the Flames Towers, a pair of 600 foot buildings, flame shaped, with thousands of LED lights whose ‘flames’ can be seen for miles. It works as an elegant combination of very old and very new as oil money brings the Mercedes, caviar crowd onto the medieval streets.

Ramil Aliyev / Shutterstock.com
Ramil Aliyev / Shutterstock.com

18. Cáceres, Spain

A phenomenal place that has everything but a beach. History, art, architecture, excellent wine and renowned kitchens. In fact, it is designated as Spain’s Gastronomic Capital for 2015 so there’s a huge buzz about this city of 100,000 near the Portuguese border. The buzz began with the opening of Atrio a striking futuristic hotel-restaurant in the prestigious Relais and Chateau chain with a pair of coveted Michelin Stars. It’s located in the ancient walled city, on UNESCO’s list.  The city was captured by the Moors in the 8th century and not retaken by Christians until 1229. Its towers reflect its Roman, Muslim, Visigoth and Christian rulers. Gothic and Renaissance building abound. Much of the city’s once prominent Jewish quarter survives. The UNESCO citation calls it “Outstanding universal value”. A fairy tale place occupied through history by military powers, though the occupying force today consists of brilliant, creative chefs.

Cáceres, Spain

17. Chengdu, China

Chengdu eminently qualifies for the off the beaten track status, being near Tibet, 1200 miles inland from the coastal colossus of Shanghai. But there are direct international flights sprouting and it’s the panda capital of the world. The Giant Panda Research Base houses about 200 of the much loved bears. It is also the capital of Sichuan cuisine, luring foodies with spicy palates just to eat the tongue tingling cuisine. There is a Chinese saying “the best cuisine is from China, while the richest flavor is from Chengdu”. There are over 60,000 restaurants and another 62,000 caterers. The city isn’t much to look at but it is one of only eight cities in the world with a UNESCO City of Gastronomy Designation.

Chengdu, China

16. Danang, Vietnam

Danang has long been known as a good place to stop over on the way to somewhere else, most notably, the UNESCO heritage sites nearby. The old Imperial city of Hue and the ancient town of Hoi An are short trips away. But a modern skyline is taking shape and the city between the Marble Mountains and the gorgeous beaches on the South China Sea is becoming worthy of a stay on its own. China Beach was a favorite place of GI’s for R&R during the Vietnam War. Beachside luxury resorts are going up, and keep in mind, the exchange rate for the Vietnamese Dong is well over 20,000 to the US$ and Euro making those hotels and signature banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches pretty affordable.

Lauren Ava / Shutterstock.com
Lauren Ava / Shutterstock.com

15. Alentejo, Portugal

It’s something that makes North Americans shake their heads. The beaches of Alantejo (the best in Europe says The Guardian) are relatively unknown because they are remote, a whole two hours from Lisbon. Two hours?  That’s a daily commute in the New World. But all the better for non-Europeans who have no qualms about spending chunks of their lives in cars. Beaches aside there are Roman ruins to be found. Visigoth ruins in fact. Evora is another UNESCO site, an impeccably preserved medieval town. The winemakers produce delicious rich, fruity reds yet Alantejo remains one of the poorest regions of Europe. The crash of the ocean waves, the melodies of the Fado singer in the square, the sense of looking back through time at a disappearing way of life make it a most compelling destination. But hurry, because Michelin stars and oenophile hotels are sprouting already.

Alentejo, Portugal

14. Shikoku, Japan

It’s called the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Eighty eight temples along a 750-mile trail begun in 815 A.D. to honor the much revered monk Kobo Daishi. It is considered a path to spiritual enlightenment. Modern pilgrims can forego the quest for perfection and choose from the many places on Japan’s smallest island that demand a visit. Pick and choose which of the many sites that demand a visit. Matsuyama is the largest city with an imposing castle, ancient hot springs and seven sacred temples. Up in the inland mountains is the Iya Valley; lush, isolated with heart-stopping gorges and vine bridges for the brave. The many hot springs will soothe your mortal coil after a day of incredible hiking or white water rafting.

Matsuyama Japan

13. Papua New Guinea

It’s a good news, bad news kind of story. One of the most remote, exotic places in the world is opening up to tourism. The not so good part is monster cruise ships are just beginning their intrusion on a pristine island country. The beaten track is barely visible from PNG. There won’t be much chilling by the hotel pool here. Because there aren’t a lot of hotel pools, as tourism is still a fledgling industry. There’s a whole new rich ecosystem here wit tribal cultures to experience and timeless beauty in jungles almost lost to time. The 60 mile long Kokoda Track takes hardy trekkers through native villages. Madang in the north is getting famous for diving and PNG as a whole is a birders paradise. Do keep in mind that the capital, Port Moresby has often been rated among the Least Livable Cities in the world. Nobody’s perfect.

Papua New Guinea

12. Greenland

There are still the breathtaking fjords to be cruised, whales to be watched and sunning at midnight to be done. Chalk one up for climate change, Greenland is getting greener (we joke). The amazing UNESCO Heritage Site the enormous Ilulissat Icefjord is at its noisiest and most active during summer sunshine when icebergs the size of mountains heave and crack. It’s a memorable day trip from Ilulissat, the third largest city and there are boat trips out into Disko Bay to get up close and icicle with the massive bergs. As with other northern countries, there’s a movement to modernize traditional cooking, focusing on local ingredients and freshness. Seafood to die for and game, especially muskox are favorites. The Greenland website reassures diners about the taste of muskox “The taste of muskox surpasses that of domestic livestock and, it melts in your mouth bursting with flavor”. Get more acquainted with native culture at the Qasigiannguit Museum with exhibits from the Stone Age to today.

Greenland Hot Springs

11. Georgia

The Georgian word for wine is ‘ghvino’, claimed to be the origin to the English ‘wine’, Italian ‘vino’. They have been making wine here for 7000 years and they are pulling the cork on what the Times calls the next great wine destination. The pleasant capital Tbilisi has a wine bar on just about every corner and there are wine tours of Kakheti, the main producing region. Surprisingly rich in natural beauty, situated between Russia and Turkey, many empires have left their mark on it. There are fabulous old churches, Black Sea resorts and alpine beauty. But it’s the vino attracting the attention now. The Georgian description of a good wine is one that could make a pheasant cry. So an American who came to visit, stayed, and started a vineyard whose wines bear the name “Pheasant’s Tears.”

Kakheti Georgia

10. Sri Lanka

A long deadly civil war made this an island that people only wanted desperately to get out of. Now, a tourism industry is being built where there were battlefields not long ago. The peace has allowed the small island nation to show off its considerable assets. Beaches that go on forever. Eight World Heritage sights. Cuisine to please the pickiest foodie. Sri Lanka is a world tea superpower. Plantations and tea museums are popular. There are safari camps here too, especially in the lush Sinharaja rain forest. Find a treetop yoga studio or luxury spa. At Dam bulla, temples have been carved out of sheer rock and filled with stunning centuries-old Buddhist artworks and artifacts. And last but certainly by no means least, the perfection of the Maldives, a thousand or so islands off the southern coast in the Indian Ocean. It is on the short list for best beach in the world. And if it’s not it, it sure is close.

Sinharaja (Sri Lanka)

9. Oman

­Thoughts of rugged fjords bring forth images of icy Scandinavian inlets with bone chilling cold and sheer granite cliffs. Well, welcome to the Norway of Arabia where the heat can melt your bridgework. Here in the isolated Musandam Peninsula the fjords are called khors. The scene is so other-worldly the BBC compared it to “the shores of a Martian Sea.” Adding to the spice is its location on the Strait of Hormuz, one of the top three places where WW3 is likely to start. Nearby are little-known but spectacular coral reefs making for great diving. Oman is the last part of the Arab world that hasn’t been paved and skyscraperred with oil money. The capital Muscat is a lovely low-key feast of Muslim architecture, old Portuguese forts and bazaars. Its geography ranges from incredible mountainscapes to ancient desert to pristine beaches, but the cranes are becoming more common on the skyline and names like Radisson, Kempinski, Four Seasons and Fairmont are now setting up shop.

Muscat, Oman

8. The North Coast of Peru

A number of places on the list are familiar destinations opening up­ new alternative tourist attractions. The medieval Incan capital of Cusco and the mysterious, celestial Macchu Picchu need no promotion and may even have too many visitors for their own good. The North Coast is remote, as in 22 hours from Cusco. Its Macchu Picchu rival is the fort at Kuélap, a stone city at 10,000 feet. Built by the Chachapoyas, or ‘People of the Clouds’ around the first Millennium, its sophisticated design required more stone to build than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Eco-friendly hotels and sites abound. The Andean spectacled bear is nearly extinct, but can be found in numbers at the Chipparri Reserve. Surfers will like the waves and vibes in the village of Mancora. For whale watchers and serious fishing types, there is Cabo Blanco, once a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. It’s like a whole new world in Peru’s North Coast, still unspoiled relatively undeveloped and still inexpensive.

Kuélap Peru

7. Tanzania

Home of the timeless, magical Serengeti with its breathtaking scenes and staggering annual migration of more than two million mammals, wildebeests, gazelles and zebras. The Times says “the real new treasure here is unprecedented access to sparsely trafficked regions.” The Selous Game Reserve in the south is home to large populations of elephants and leopards. The landscape in the relatively unknown Arangire National Park unique in the region and is home to climbing lions and giraffe. Trek as far up Africa’s highest mountain in Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park, and when you done following the herds and conquering mountain tops, Zanzibar awaits with its rich history, wonderful beaches and newly upgraded creature comforts.

Moshi, Tanzania Serengeti National Park

6. Zimbabwe

Long run by one of the world’s most despicable despots, Zimbabwe is slowly emerging from pariah status with political stability unseen in years. With the currency next to worthless, a window of tremendous opportunity has opened on a country whose natural beauty cannot be overstated. Infrastructure and travel companies are making visiting easier than ever. There are five UNESCO Sites including the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, said to be the home of the Queen of Sheba. There is the legendary Mosi-oa-Tunya or Victoria Falls the largest curtain waterfall on earth. Stability looks good on the capital Harare, one of the nicest on the sub content, but it’s still the big game safaris that are the biggest draw on open savannahs or in numerous National Parks. It’s truly the stuff that dreams are made of.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

5. Medellin, Colombia

Urban renewal with innovative architecture and design. Not long ago the name Medellin was synonymous with drug lords and corruption. It is now becoming known for one of the most ambitious urban transformations in the world. The renewal is epitomized by the futuristic Metrocables, cable cars that unlocked the impoverished people in the surrounding hills from poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods integrating them with the urban renewal below. Similarly, another slum was transformed by the stunning Avant Garde architecture of the Biblioteca Espana. Revel in the night life with the beautiful people at the Parque Llera and enjoy the gentle climate in the place known as City of Eternal Spring.

dubes sonego / Shutterstock.com
dubes sonego / Shutterstock.com

4. Macedonia

According to the Times, this is THE next Balkan destination. The first good sign: there are no McDonalds. All closed. God bless them. The capital Skopje was recently rated one of the 10 least expensive cities in the world. Once one of the great crossroads of history, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and much later Communist empires held sway and left their cultural, architectural and culinary influences. Skopje is a vibrant melting pot of all of them. A surprising treasure trove of natural beauty, there is much to sight-see or for the more active to climb, hike or ride. It is landlocked but the beaches of Lake Ohrid are renowned as are the vineyards are a mere three hour drive across the Greek border.

Macedonia

3. The Faroe Islands

The Faroes are a scattering of rocky islands 150 miles due north of Scotland in the north Atlantic. It has a famously ornery climate and a brooding sub-Arctic other-worldly beauty that traditionally drew bird-watchers, naturalists and trekkers. It is one of the world capitals for those adorable puffins, which also show up on local menus. Its current celebrity is based on a unique new cuisine as set out in The New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto that is traditional Scandinavian food meets The Iron Chef. Not much grows in that climate so they forage for herbs, harvest seaweed and pair them with locally grown mutton and the superb deep-sea Faroe Bank cod and mussels and serve them with wild angelica on driftwood plates, all washed down with schnapps followed by local beer and cheese. An unforgettable feast after an unforgettable day trekking up the highest mountain at Slættaratindur. It is tucked away off the beaten track but as part of Denmark, it’s a short flight from Copenhagen.

Faroe Islands

2. Bolivia

A definite hint  that things are happening here: the culinary genius behind the world’s # 1 rated restaurant for three consecutive years in Copenhagen has opened a place in La Paz. Another South American bad boy turning it around drawing investors and interest in its unsurpassed scenery and cities. It has become a destination for foodies, trekkers wine snobs and adventure seekers. Who knew Bolivia made wine, let alone having an acclaimed wine route?  From the exuberance of La Paz to an array of sublime World Heritage sites to spectacular settings to hike, ski, mountain bike and exhaust yourself to your heart’s content. You can follow Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid south to Tupiza, but lay off the train robbing and your visit will end much happier than theirs.

Potosi, Bolivia

1. Durban, South Africa

Long overshadowed by its two bigger, siblings, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa’s third largest city is stepping into the limelight. ‘Durbs’ as it’s known is undergoing a serious reno and upgrade, thanks in part to facilities from the 2010 Worlds Cup. The beachside Rivertown neighborhood of warehouses and Art Deco buildings is being transformed into a happening ‘hood of galleries, restaurants and skateboard installations to jumpstart its rather tranquil night life. Durban is also home to a large ethnic Indian community and the influence is unmistakable. It was here that a young lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi settled in 1883 and began his legendary life as activist and leader.

lcswart / Shutterstock.com
lcswart / Shutterstock.com

The 15 Best New Hotels on the Planet

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

15. Pikaia Lodge, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

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

Photo by: Pikaia Lodge
Photo by: Pikaia Lodge

14. Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, Okavango Delta, Botswana

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

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

13. Viña Vik, Millahue, Chile

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

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

12. The Norman, Tel Aviv, Israel

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

Photo by: The Norman
Photo by: The Norman

11. Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard, London

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

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

10. Four Seasons Resort Orlando, FL

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

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

9. Adler Mountain Lodge, Dolomites, Italy

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

Photo by: Carlos Muela
Photo by: ADLER Mountain Lodge

8. Belle Mont Farm, St. Kitts

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

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

7. Maalifushi by Como, Maldives

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

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

6. Raffles, Istanbul

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

Photo by: Raffles Istanbul
Photo by: Raffles Istanbul

5. Hotel Sahrai, Fez, Morocco

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

Photo by: Hotel Sahrai
Photo by: Hotel Sahrai

4. Vines Resort & Spa, Mendoza, Argentina

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

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

3. 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

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

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

2. Namiri Plains, Tanzania

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

Photo by: Namiri Plains
Photo by: Namiri Plains

1. The Brando, Tetiaroa, French Polynesia

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

Photo by: The Brando
Photo by: The Brando

10 Best Countries to Visit in the Fall

Traveling to various countries always offers the best memories. With a plethora of countries to choose from, narrowing the list down can be difficult. As you read this article, you’ll learn the top ten countries to visit this fall.

1. Poland

Poland offers a wide array of sightseeing, architecture, mountains, and shopping. Zakopane, one of the most popular winter vacation spots, offers a genuine Polish mountain experience from the rustic cabin restaurants to the slopes. Krakow, another popular city, dates back to the 1200’s and is renowned for its impressive, Renaissance Era architecture. Whether you shop, ski, or go sightseeing, you can be sure you’ll enjoy Poland.
Poland in the Fall

2. Peru

Another country worth visiting this fall is Peru. Peru is known for being home to the legendary Amazon rain forest and the Andes Mountains. The famous Machu Picchu pyramid is also located in Peru and represents the historic Inca Empire. Regardless of where you go in Peru, you can be certain you’ll leave feeling educated and culturally enlightened.
Peru in the Fall

3. Tanzania

One of the most exciting countries in Africa is Tanzania. Tanzania is most famous for being home to the incredible Mount Kilimanjaro, which offers an unbeatable hiking and sightseeing experience because its the highest mountain in the country. Tanzania also offers a world of exotic animals worth observing, providing a truly wild experience.
Tanzania in the Fall

4. Denmark

A fourth country that deserves a spot on your travel list is Denmark. Denmark is home to some of the best architecture in the world, showcasing many magnificent castles, towers, and cathedrals. Denmark is also home to the National Museum of Denmark, which features historic viking exhibitions, progressive paintings, and photographs. For art lovers and history buffs, Denmark is the place to go.
Denmark in the Fall

5. Italy

One of the most popular vacation destinations in the world is undoubtedly Italy. For art appreciators, foodies, and avid sightseers, Italy is the ideal location. Italy is known for offering some of the most savory cuisine in the world. Rome is the best spot to enjoy an abundance of culture, allowing you to visit the Vatican City, the Roman Forum, and more. Afterwards, stopping into La Porta del Principe to enjoy exquisite Italian dishes like pasta, meatballs, seafood, and more is essential.
Italy in the Fall

6. Russia

Russia, the largest country in the world, is definitely a one that should be visited. Russia provides amazing sightseeing, offering vibrant buildings to admire. Russia also boasts the largest forest reserves in the world, allowing you to see various animals and plant life.
Russia in the Fall

7. Hungary

The diverse country of Hungary is a seventh country that should be included on your travel wish list this fall. Hungary is home to immensely impressive architecture, including the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in all of Europe. Budapest, the capital, is noted for its beauty, particularly during the evenings when the city lights up and appears quite magical and bright.
Hungary in the Fall

8. Australia

It’s hard to create a list of your travel destinations for the fall without thinking of Australia. One of Australia’s greatest claims to fame is the Great Barrier Reef. This tremendous coral reef system is a diver’s dream, as it is home to nearly 3,000 reefs and almost 1,000 islands.
Australia Fall

9. China

China is another top country that should be added to your travel wish list. China offers some of the most impressive means of transportation in the world, nearly 35,000 different animals, and one of the deepest histories around. China will certainly leave you with memories unlike anywhere else.
China in the Fall

10. Malaysia

The tenth country that should make an appearance on your travel wish list is Malaysia. This region is known for its gorgeous natural scenery, extensive selection of plants, and varied wildlife. For birders, Malaysia is ideal because its home to over 600 species.
Malayis in the Fall

10 Best Safaris in Africa

Up and down the Great Rift Valley, there are many parks and game reserves that offer visitors the beauty of Africa. Whether you are looking for lions and luxury or roughing it with rhinos, here are ten African safari destinations that are sure to please.

1. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Best known for the Great Wildebeest Migration between July and October, the Mara grasslands are home to zebra, lion, the African elephant, and the endangered black rhino, while some of the most dangerous animals in the world hippos and crocodiles can be seen in the Mara and Talek rivers. Visitors can find lodges or camps offering driving tours, horse-riding or even hot air balloon tours.

Black Rhino

2. Okavango Delta and the Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is a lush oasis nestled in the heart of the Kalahari Desert, containing the Moremi Game Preserve. With both fertile grasslands and meandering waterways, the delta offers visitors breathtaking dry and wetland safaris, whether on game drives, on foot or aboard canoes, called makoru. Moremi is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting more than 400 colorful species.

Bird Watching Okavango Delta

3. Kruger National Park, South Africa

Offering both guided and self-driven safari adventures, this national park is home to all of the Big Five game attractions: lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. Lodging at the park includes everything from tents to luxury accommodations in 26 rest camps.

Leopard Kruger National Park

4. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

Not only does this area offer stunning views of the Zambezi River crashing spectacularly over Victoria Falls, but there are also many diverse safari options. Elephant and water buffalo can be seen drinking along the river from canoes or while walking along the numerous river trail walks. Visitors can also view the rare Sable antelope at the Matetsi Game Reserve, or literally get in touch with nature on elephant-back safaris.

Elephants Victoria Falls

5. Ngorongoro Crater Tanzania 

Where there had once stood a looming volcano is now one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Africa. The world’s largest unbroken caldera, a collapsed volcano crater, Ngorongoro is home to large populations of lion, hippo and gazelle. Luxury lodges can be found on the crater rim with stunning views looking down into the heart of the once mighty mountain.

Gazelle Ngorongoro Crater Tanzania

6. Etosha National Park, Namibia

Home to African elephants, black and white rhinoceros, giraffes and leopards, the Etosha Pan floods during the summer months, attracting water birds, including flamingos and pelicans. Tourism is managed by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts, with five in-park sites for lodging or camping.

Giraffe Etosha National Park

7. Lake Malawi National Park, Malawi

Located at the southern end of the lake, the Lake Malawi National Park boasts the first freshwater national park in the world. From Cape McClear and other landing sites, visitors can enjoy the pristine water, home to many different species of mbuna, freshwater fish known as cichlids. Other wildlife seen on game drives, boating and walking tours include baboons, fish eagles and hyrax.

Cichlids Lake Malawi National Park

8. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Despite its foreboding name, Bwindi welcomes visitors, offering thrilling mountain safaris, most notably, gorilla-tracking tours. Accommodations range from luxury lodges to tented forest camps, surrounded by more than 200 tree species, colobus monkey and chimpanzees. The park is open year round, but it is best to visit during dry seasons to avoid the muddy conditions of roads and trails.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

9. Luangwa Valley, Zambia

View the world’s largest concentration of hippos in one of the four national parks in this valley: North and South Luangwa, Luambe and Lukusuzi. Safari adventures here include walking elephant trails and day and night game drives. The valley is also home to two endemic species, Thornicroft’s Giraffe and Cookson’s Wildebeest.

Giraffes Luangwa Valley

10. Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

After decades of civil war, tourism in Mozambique is experiencing a renaissance, and the Gorongosa National Park has steadily rebounded since 2004. Now an active tourist destination, the park offers diverse flora and fauna, including buffalo, wildebeests and rainforest habitats on Mount Gorongosa.

Wildebeasts Gorongosa National Park