6 Things to See and Do in Uruguay

It is South America’s smallest country and has flown well under the radar for a long time in terms of tourism, but this year it is shaping up to be one of the hot spots to travel to. Think moments not made for tourists, the longest running Carnaval in the world, boutique wineries to explore and more. From learning how to dance the tango to soaking up the sun on the beach to exploring cobble street towns, here are our favorite six things to do in this tiny, but a fun-filled country of Uruguay.

6. Learn the Tango

Uruguay claims to be one of the capitals of the Tango and it’s hard to dispute that claim, seeing as in the city of Montevideo, the tango was danced for the first time. In the Old City, about 150 years ago the streets teemed with immigrant workers from Europe, freed slaves and fortune seekers who frequented neighborhood brothels and bars.

It is here where the tango emerged, a combination of African rhythms, Italian opera and a touch of polka thrown in. Today the Old City remains a mecca for the tango and although it’s a nocturnal business, visitors who are just learning can join lessons early in the evening before hitting the dance floor.

5. Attend the Carnaval

Carnaval is celebrated around the world but no one celebrates it like the country of Uruguay, who celebrates it for a whopping 40 days! From the end of January to mid-March, the country is decked out in costume parades, satirical comedies in the streets and contests for artists.

Montevideo is the best place to get involved as it hosts the most parades, the biggest drums, and incredible activities to join in on. The Llamadas is the two-night parade that is absolutely one of the highlights of the carnival, as are the tablado shows. Depending on when you go will depend on what you see but you can guarantee that it won’t disappoint.

4. Tour the Wineries

This country is the fourth-largest producer of wine in South America and it pays to check out some of the incredible wineries while you are here. A budding new wine route features over 15 small boutique wineries, a welcome change to the mass producers that are often seen around the world. Visitors are welcomed to these wineries with open arms, with owners taking great care to offer fabulous wines to taste, fabulous on-site restaurants and behind the scenes tours.

Make sure to check out the 15-acre Vinedo de Los Vientos where guests are treated to high-quality wines paired with lamb and beef cuts. More boutique and sophisticated is Bodega Bouza which overlooks the white sands of Punta del Este, one of South America’s hippest beach resort towns. Each bottle they produce lists the wine’s vintage, number of barrels used in the marking and quantity of bottles produced.

3. Explore Colonia del Sacramento

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is full of old colonial buildings, cobbled streets and quaint restaurants. Exploring the town only takes about a day and can easily be done on foot, although there are many shops that rent bicycles and scooters. The main attraction here is most definitely the historic center and the eight small museums you can visit for just one price.

Make sure to check out the Museo Municipal for its electric collection of treasures including a scale model of Colonia and a whale skeleton. One of the favorite things to do in this town is eat, due to the high number of restaurants that offer spectacular local food. One of the best places is Buen Suspiro, a cozy spot that specializes in local wines and cheese. In the winter cozy up beside the fire or in the summer grab a table on the back patio, we suggest reserving ahead for either.

2. Hit the Beach in Punta del Diablo

The former fishing village of Punta del Diablo is one of the greatest spots to be in this country, especially if you are planning on hitting the beach. Don’t expect high rise hotels, ATM’s or flashy things here; instead, you will find a laid-back surfer lifestyle where time is spent on the beach, day and night. If you wanted to learn how to surf it is easy to grab a board and an instructor from a local shop, or if waves aren’t your thing, sit back on the soft sand and soak in the sun.

Horseback riding is popular in off months to enjoy the awesome sunsets and many visitors choose to play in the large sand dunes. A dozen small bars and restaurants line the city, most only operational during the peak summer season and a handful of hostels, hotels and campgrounds are available for visitors.

1. Stay in an Estancia

Visiting and staying at an Estancia is Uruguay is about learning the history and culture of the country, it means unplugging and heading out to the country to experience typical rural life. If visitors are looking to do a little something different, this would be it.

Seeking out a traditional estancia is important and be prepared to switch off and join in the family life as this is no party place or entertainment venue, it is indeed a real South American Ranch. Join the ranchers on horseback as you learn about sheep herding, de-worming, branding and more. Eat traditional meals, sleep by candlelight and truly immerse yourself in the way of life for rural folk in this country.

6 Outstanding South American Festivals

Of all the continents in the world, it’s apparent South America’s people have the most innate penchant for parties of all kinds, from food fairs to music festivals and religious fetes, each is celebrated with passion, enthusiasm, and a rainbow of costumes. If you’re lucky enough to hit a festival, be sure to book well in advance–the secret has long been out and people literally flock to these fantastic fiestas. Some are complete chaos and others orderly and easygoing; be sure to do some research and know what you’re in for because some South American festivals can be off-the-charts-wild.

6. Semana Santa, Peru

Kicking off two days before Palm Sunday and celebrated for ten dynamic days until Easter Sunday arrives, Semana Santa is one of Peru’s most outstanding festivals. This religious fete is a hotel-filler and one of the best times to stay with a local family (Peru’s tourist office provides homestay options). The Friday kick-off starts with a parade honoring Our Lady of Sorrows (La Virgen de los Delores)–at this point consider standing out of the way: it’s customary to levy “sorrows” upon spectators by slingshot fitted with pebbles. Otherwise the mood is fairly somber yet Semana Santa still paints the streets colorful with religious traditions, vibrant processions, art and music shows, traditional competitions, and abundant, delicious Peruvian fare. Be sure to attend on the Saturday preceding Easter Sunday for an all-out Peruvian bash that plays out until morning, definitely showing the wilder side of locals.

Photo by: Flickr/motoperu
Photo by: Flickr/motoperu

5. Tomorrowland -Sao Paulo, Brazil

Tomorrowland is an extension of an electronic dance music (EDM) festival stemming from Boom, Belgium, also one of the world’s biggest and one that’s been happening annually since 2005. Tomorrowland has stepped into South American terrain–where it’s evident crowds can’t get enough–bringing in some of the best Djs to Sao Paulo in the first week of May over three days solid. Dreamville is the onsite camping accommodations available to festival-goers at Tomorrowland where you can pitch your own tent but there are three other (much easier) camping options including a pre-made tent fit with sleeping bags, small but arty cabanas, and the Dream Lodge reminiscent of a night safari tent complete with access to scores of amenities–the prices aren’t cheap though! This festival is so popular tickets sell out in a matter of minutes and then the only way in is to buy a package deal.

Photo by: Fest 300
Photo by: Fest 300

4. Mendoza Wine Harvest Festival

Since 1936, the Mendoza Wine Harvest Festival (Fiesta National de la Vendimia) has been uniting wine growers, vineyard hands, locals, and thousands of visitors in a spectacular show of love for the Cuyo region and the incredible wines it produces. The festival is a culmination of celebrations happening between December and February throughout Mendoza’s 18 districts. Starting off the first weekend of March, the region’s bumper harvest is celebrated famously with wine, food, music, and innumerable special events.  Concerts, parades, fireworks, and general merrymaking create a definitive carnival-esque atmosphere under blue skies and starry nights. A mammoth finale performance at Mendoza’s Greek Theater features hundreds of dancers and actors, the National Grape Harvest Queen is crowned, and the entire celebration ends with a huge fireworks display. As one of the world’s most renowned harvest festivals, this Mendoza gala is definite must for any traveling oenophile.

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

3. Corpus Christi Festival, Ecuador

Ecuador has long been recognized for enduring indigenous traditions including numerous festivals throughout the year. Ecuadorians love just about any reason to celebrate and especially love their customary observances–they really do put on extravagant shows. In the small town of Pujili, the  Corpus Christi Festival happens in the second week of June, welcoming thousands of Ecuadorians for a fete blending the commemoration of both harvest to Incan Sun God Inti and Holy Communion. Food, art, folk and regional dance, and music are intrinsic parts of the festival and culminate following a days-long fiesta in the El Danzante parade where traditional clothing and costumes come together in a kaleidoscopic exhibition. If you do make it to Pujili, head just 15 minutes further to Latacunga National Park for Andean forests alongside striking rivers and lakes and forest habitats within the Amazon, a dramatic area mostly unexplored by tourists.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

2. Tango Festival -Buenos Aires, Argentina

Precision, tempo, elaborate clothing, and most of all passion rise to crescendo during the Tango Festival in Buenos Aires, one of the most famous dance festivals in the world and one for both pros and the keenly interested but inexperienced. The dramatic tango was born in Argentina’s brothels and over the decades, has become one of the most sensual, provocative, and emotional dances of all time favored by all social classes. The Tango Festival starts with a series of recitals and shows called La Festival; there are film screenings and lessons city-wide. Then comes the main event: the Tango Championships. During the celebrations, there’s a must-see event at the massive, alfresco milonga (tango hall) where more than 10,000 dancers (tangueros) careen across Buenos Aires’ cobblestone streets–it’s a beguiling show that can make anyone want to learn the tango if they don’t already know.

Photo by: Fest300
Photo by: Fest300

1. Carnival -Brazil, Columbia & Uruguay

Carnival is celebrated throughout South America in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Columbia but the Brazilians undoubtedly celebrate with the most passion. Prior to the onset of Lent, numerous Argentinian towns celebrate Mardi Gras but no one seems to do it quite as well as it’s done in Rio de Janeiro where a phenomenal party takes place. In Salvador, flatbeds called blocos, fitted with pumping sound systems drive music bands around the city for a full-on, three-day party to end all parties. Second prize for the best Carnival celebration goes to the city of Barranquilla in Columbia where African-style dancing, parades of floats, and ultimately Miss Carnival receives her crown. Riding in at close third is Uruguay, where in the city of Montevideo, they carry Brazil’s zeal for Carnival and celebrate with unbridled enthusiasm–no neighborhood goes untouched by Carnival–with dance parties, countless parades, and extreme Latin revelry.

Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com
Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com

The 24 Newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey and the Blue and John Crow Mountains in Jamaica are just two of the 24 newly inscribed World Heritage sites approved by the 39th UNESCO committee in Bonn, Germany recently.  From ancient, archaeological sites to complex industrial systems and cultural landscapes, the 2015 list provides no shortage of exciting and intriguing travel ideas for the year, sure to peak even the most veteran travelers’ interests.

1. Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System – Mexico

Constructed in the 16th century and located on the Central Mexican Plateau, this aqueduct was built with support from local indigenous communities.  Along with tanks, bridges and a water catchment area, this heritage canal system has the “highest single-level arcade ever built in an aqueduct”.

Photo by: UNESCO/Espacio de la Imagen/Edgar Valtiago
Photo by: UNESCO/Espacio de la Imagen/Edgar Valtiago

2. Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale – Italy

The nine structures included in this Arab-Norman Palermo are comprised of two palaces, three churches, a cathedral, a bridge, the Cefalù cathedral and the Monreale cathedral.  Located on the northern coast of Sicily, this heritage site, dating from the 12th century, depicts the relationships between the Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultures that eventually led to new spatial, structural and decorative concepts.

Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale

3. Baekje Historic Areas – Republic of Korea

The Busosanseong Fortress and the royal palace at Wanggung-ri are among the eight archaeological sites that make up the Baekje Historic Areas.  Found in the mid-west region of the Republic of Korea, these sites, dating from 475 to 660 CE, are an accurate representation of the Baekje Kingdom, a time when the ancient kingdoms in Korea, China and Japan were sharing and exchanging thoughts and ideas on contemporary issues such as artistry, religion and technology.

Gongsanseong fortress Korea

4. Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) – Jordan

This heritage site, located on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, is believed to be the spot where Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptist.  With multiple church and monastery remains, this archaeological site is a place of Christian pilgrimage and a testament to the Roman and Byzantine religious influence in the area.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan

5. Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars – France

Already one of the most popular wine regions in the world, the Champagne Hillsides were given World Heritage designation due to its historical importance in the production of sparkling wines.  Since the early 17th century, these historic vineyards have understood the value of illustrating the process of champagne production and have become a household name in the wine and tourism industry.

Champagne hillsides france

6. Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement – Denmark

This town, a planned settlement of the Moravian Church, was intended to represent the Protestant urban ideal and so was constructed in its entirety around a central Church square.  Founded in 1773 and still used today by a community of the Moravian Church, this town is complete with simple and homogenous architecture, such as its yellow brick buildings with red tile roofs.

Christiansfeld denmark

7. Climats, terroirs of Burgundy – France

These delimited vineyard parcels, found south of Dijon, are an excellent representation of the ancient cultivation and production methods in place since the High Middle Ages.  Due to human cultivation and natural conditions, these parcels, located on the slopes of the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune, are now identified by the wine they produced.

Château du Clos de Vougeot Burgundy France

8. Cultural Landscape of Maymand – Iran (Islamic Republic of)

This heritage site of Maymand is a self-contained area located in the southern part of Iran’s central mountains.  UNESCO designated this area a heritage site because of the semi-nomadic pastoralists who live with their animals on mountain pastures, and relocate depending on the seasons.  The nomads live low in the valley during the winter months in unique cave dwellings, and live in temporary settlements higher up on the mountain during the spring and autumn months.

Photo by: Ngjyra
Photo by: Ngjyra

9. Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape – Turkey

Situated in the aptly-named Fertile Crescent, this city and its surrounding landscape has been given an World Heritage designation due to it being an important center throughout different time periods, from the Hellenistic period, to the Ottoman times and into the present.  The fortified city of Diyarbakir, along with the Hevsel Gardens, is comprised of an inner castle,  a 5.8 kilometer long wall, towers, gates, 63 inscriptions all from different periods and is located on the Upper Tigres River Basin.

Diyarbakir Fortress Turkey

10. Ephesus – Turkey

This World Heritage Site has long since drawn Pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean.  The ancient city of Ephesus, featuring successive Hellenistic and Roman settlements, is comprised of many excavated monuments and historical sites, and is a great example of a Roman port city.

Ephesus Turkey

11. Fray Bentos Cultural-Industrial Landscape – Uruguay

West of the town of Fray Bentos and situated on the Uruguay River, this site was built in order to process the meat that was produced on the nearby prairies.  This was given World Heritage status due to its excellent illustration on the process of meat production; its crucial location, industrial and residential buildings and social institutions ensure that this site of meat production was known on a global scale.

Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com
Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com

12. Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape – Mongolia

Having long been a site of ancient shamanic and Buddhist practices, the Burkhan Khaldun, situated in the central part of the Khentii mountain chain in the north-east part of the country, has been a place of worship of the sacred mountains, rivers and ovoo-s (shamanic rock cairns) that make up the landscape.  Believed to be the place of Genghis Khan’s birth and burial, this site is crucial to the unification of the Mongol people and to the mountain worship prevalent in their culture.

mountain mongolia

13. Necropolis of Beth She’arim: A Landmark of Jewish Renewal – Israel

The series of catacombs that make up this heritage site are an important collection of Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew artworks and inscriptions.  Southeast of the city of Haifa, Beth She’arim was the primary Jewish burial place outside of Jerusalem and is an important testimony to ancient Judaism and to the Jewish renewal after 135 CE.

Beth She’arim Israel

14. Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site – Norway

Using the natural mountainous landscape to its advantage, the Norsk-Hydro Company manufactured artificial fertilizer from nitrogen in the air and became an example of a new global industry in the early 20th century. The hydroelectric power plants and transport systems and towns included at the Rjukan-Notodden site show how this company used its industry, in combination with nature, to meet the Western world’s increasing demand for agricultural production.

Rjukan-Notodden Norway

15. Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia

Petroglyphs and inscriptions on the rock face of this heritage site offer a glimpse into the passages of the ancient Arab populations across the Great Narfoud Desert.  These preserved depictions of human and animal figures show 10,000 years of history found in this great desert landscape in Saudi Arabia.

Photo by: saudi-archaeology
Photo by: saudi-archaeology

16. San Antonio Missions – United States of America

A great source of pride for Texans now and past are the five frontier mission complexes that make up this newly designated World Heritage site located in southern Texas.  Built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century, the San Antonio Missions are symbols of Spain’s colonization of the region and are the site of the historic 1836 Battle of the Alamo.

San Antonio Missions Conception

17. Singapore Botanical Gardens – Singapore

Used for both conservation and education, the Singapore Botanical Gardens, built in 1859, include many historical features that illustrate the development of the garden and its importance as a site for science and research.

Singapore Botanical Gardens

18. Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining – Japan

Eleven properties make up this heritage site, situated in the southwest of Japan.  This site depicts the time in Japanese history when the country actively sought technology from both Europe and America and is considered the first successful transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western nation.

Nirayama Reverbatory Furnaces Japan

19. Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus – Germany

Built on a narrow island in the Elbe River from 1885 to 1927 and partially rebuilt from 1949 to 1967, these two urban areas, centrally located in the port city of Hamburg, are examples of the effects of rapid international trade in the 19th and 20th centuries.  These two areas together are one of the largest historic ensembles of port warehouses in the world.

Speicherstadt Germany

20. Susa – Iran (Islamic Republic of)

These architectural monuments, depicting the nearly extinct Elamite, Persian and Parthian cultural traditions, are comprised of administrative, residential and palatial structures excavated in the south-west of Iran.  These archaeological sites illustrate settlements found in the area from the late 5th millennium BCE to the 13th century CE, successively.

Susa Iran

21. The Forth Bridge – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The largest multi-span cantilever bridge, located across the estuary of the Forth River in Scotland, has earned World Heritage designation from UNESCO due to its innovative use of bridge design and construction.

The Forth Bridge UK

22. The Par Force Hunting Landscape in North Zealand – Denmark

The two hunting forests of Store Dyrehave and Gribskov, along with the hunting park of Jaegersborg Hegn/Jaegersborg Dyrehave, where Danish kings hunted with hounds until the end of the 16th century, have reached World Heritage status due to its demonstration of Baroque landscaping principles.

Photo by: .bastian (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: .bastian (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

23. Tusi Sites- China

From the Yuan and Ming periods of Chinese civilization, the Tusi Sites depict the tribal domains whose chiefs were elected based on the Tusi system.  This system, in place from the 13th to the 20th century, rose in prominence due to its unification of national administration and its allowance of customs and culture from ethnic minorities.

Photo by: photo.navi
Photo by: photo.navi

24. Blue and John Crow Mountains – Jamaica

Jamaica’s first World Heritage designation is the unique and historically important mountainous region situated in the south-east of Jamaica.  Not only does this site contain many of the endemic plant species present in the Caribbean Islands, but it also provided refuge for both the indigenous Tainos and escaped African slaves known as Maroons.  Due to the isolated nature of these mountains, the refugees managed to resist the European colonial system, and in doing so, developed spiritual connections with the mountains that are still felt today.

Blue Mountains Jamaica

10 Most Beautiful Airports in the World

In our modern-day where flying is done for pleasure just as much as it’s done for business, airports and airplanes can be found in just about every corner of the world as the demand to reach far-off destinations only increases. Through this shift from flying as a necessity to flying for fun, designs for airports have shifted from simply practical and functional, to highly unique and culturally reflective in design. For visitors to a country, an airport can play a massively impactful role on the perception of the country as the airport creates that first taste of a nation, and countries now know how a great airport can play an important role in tourism. Below is a look at 10 of the most beautiful airports in the world:

10. Carrasco International Airport -Montevideo, Uruguay

Nick Photoworld / Shutterstock

The airport named after a suburb just outside of Montevideo, Uruguay gained a fair amount of international acclaim in 2009 following the opening of a brand new terminal. The refined, classy and elegant design garnered Uruguayan-born architect Rafael Vinoly a great deal of praise for his impressive work. The functionalities of the terminal are all enclosed under one sweeping 365-meter curved roof. The interior of the airport is covered in daylight as a result of the design, and visitors can look out the windows to behold the rolling landscape, which lies beyond the planes taking off.

The original passenger terminal – which is now used as the cargo terminal – was opened in 1947. In 2003 the Uruguayan government transferred the administration, operation and maintenance to a private company, which then invested heavily in the airport. The new capacity for the upgraded Carrasco International Airport can handle around 6-million travelers a year through their doors.

9.  King Fahd International Airport -Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Fedor Selivanov / Shutterstock

The world’s largest airport in terms of land area, King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia first saw use in 1991 during the first Gulf War as a storage site for allied aircraft and machinery. Fast-forward to 1999 and the airport was finally opened for commercial traffic. Dammam is one of the most oil-rich cities in the world, though the airport sits some 50km away from the city, and is reached by a road that features camels, Bedouin tents and other traditional Arab imagery.

The massive airport also features an extremely lavish and cushy royal terminal that sees surprisingly little use. One of the more defining characteristics of the airport is how quiet it seems relative to its massive size. In 2013 King Fahd International Airport saw approximately 7-million visitors pass through its terminals, which given the scale of the facility seems like a small number to justify its size.

8. Princess Juliana International Airport -Saint Martin

Gemma Fletcher / Shutterstock

The Princess Juliana International Airport located on the Dutch half of the island of Saint Martin is most famous for its extremely low-altitude flyover landing approach. The approach is a scene that looks nearly too fantastical to be true, as huge aircraft touch down on a runway just feet from the shores of Maho Beach which is capable of placing worry in the minds of passengers. However, not only are tourists treated to a tropical paradise, but also get to witness the majesty of a massive Boeing 747 touching down just overhead.

The airport was initially started as a military airstrip in 1942. In 1964, the airport was remodeled and relocated before receiving significant upgrades in 1985 and 2001. The airport is capable of handling around 2.5-million passengers, and is ranked by the History Channel as the 4th most dangerous airport in the world because of its circumstances. Added warnings for those over 6’5″.

7. Giovanni Nicelli Airport -Venice, Italy

Baloncici / Shutterstock

Located on the Venice Lido, the Giovanni Nicelli Airport is a small airport that is considered one of the most delightful city airports in Europe, even though it serves as the little-brother to Marco Polo International Airport. The building’s design features a very unique look that dates back to 1935. The arrival and departure lounge features a grand piano that will have an impromptu pianist take a seat and perform for passersby and a number of murals of 1930’s aircraft.

The airport sits just 13-feet above sea level, and features a small grass surface runway. The area surrounding the airport features the Venetian lagoon, a medieval-era church and other historic buildings that are sure to catch the eye of tourists. Visitors to the airport can reach Nicelli on foot, by bike, or by boat (which is often the preferred and most picturesque way to get around in any Italian city).

6. Kansai International Airport -Osaka, Japan

Taro Hama @ e-kamakura / Getty Images

Located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay, the Kansai International Airport first opened in 1994 to relieve overcrowding at Osaka International Airport. The complexities of the project meant that it was a hugely ambitious and expensive development to undertake even for this technologically forward-thinking country. The length of Terminal 1 is almost 2km and is one of the longest buildings in the world. The airport is also built to withstand earthquakes and typhoons, which are features that are more important than ever (especially for an airport on the water).

In 1995 an earthquake struck the epicenter not far from Kansai International Airport. The airport remained undamaged, with its acres of glass unbroken, and not a single casualty inside the building. In 2001 the airport was awarded with the honor of being one of just 10 buildings given the American Society of Engineers Civil Engineering Monuments of the Millennium. Needless to say, it’s a grand structure worthy of recognition.

5. Wellington International Airport -Wellington, New Zealand

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Sometimes criticized as being one of the ugliest airports in the world, the “Rock” terminal of Wellington International Airport is an incredibly unique design and is subjective to the opinion of the onlooker. Though some may be critical, the airport has won a number of awards for its design. The airport is only the third busiest in New Zealand but still handled more than 5-million passengers in 2013.

The airport is an important link for connecting many regional and national New Zealand flights, and also has major links to eastern Australian cities. Wellington International Airport comprises just 270-acres of land, and has a reputation for rough and turbulent landings because of strong winds created by the Cook Strait. The surrounding area however is typical of New Zealand (or even Lord of the Rings) with rolling hills and lush greens, which compliment the unique dome-like structure of the inside which certainly lives up to its ‘Rock’ nickname.

4. Marrakech Menara Airport -Marrakech, Morocco

robert paul van beets / Shutterstock

Another airport known for its culturally unique design, Marrakech Menara Airport in Morocco was created to resemble classic Islamic geometric design and features nature motifs inscribed into a massive network of giant concrete diamond shapes. At its core, the airport is essentially one giant piece of artwork. The structure almost resembles a soccer or football stadium from the outside, presenting itself like a massive steel grating with planes flying in and out. However, the appeal is surprisingly welcoming and pleasing to the eye. The facility serves as a receiving point for a number of European flights from Casablanca, as well as from Arab nations.

The airport was used as a military base during World War 2 and acted as a command hub and stopover for allied cargo, supplies, and personnel. Currently, there are two passenger terminals, with a capacity for handling around 4.5-million passengers a year. A third terminal is currently under construction as the site continues to expand.

3. Courchevel Altiport -Courchevel, France

Roberto Chiartano / Getty Images

Opened in 1961 as a means to boost the number of visitors to this high-class French Alpine ski resort, Courchevel is one of the most demanding airports for pilots. Pilots must negotiate their way through deep mountain valleys and a notoriously short runway that slopes into the mountainside at an 18.5-degree angle.

At over 6,500 feet in elevation, this airport is fit for a movie. In fact, the airport has been featured in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies. This location is as picturesque in the daytime as it is at night, especially when snow-covered. If tourists manage to land on the short 1,762-foot runway, the pricey-ness of the aforementioned resorts are definitely worth the trip, as this is the type of area only seen once in a lifetime. Along with its movie appearance, the Courchevel Altiport has more claims to fame having been featured on the History Channel’s Most Extreme Airports in 2010.

2. King Abdul Aziz Airport, Jeddah -Saudi Arabia

BangKod001 / Shutterstock

The massive King Abdul Aziz Airport is the busiest in Saudi Arabia as well as the third-largest in the country. Taking up an area of over 15 kilometers, it includes a Royal Terminal, housing facilities for staff, as well as facilities used by the Royal Saudi Air Force.

King Abdul Aziz is capable of accommodating 80,000 travelers at once in the Hajj terminal. This 10-module area is covered by 21 “tents” of white Teflon-coated fiberglass to house those on a pilgrimage to nearby Mecca.  The Hajj terminal received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1983 due to “the brilliant and imaginative design of the roofing system met the awesome challenge of covering this vast space with incomparable elegance and beauty”. Servicing 27 million passengers per year, it is interesting to note that the Jeddah airport was voted as the second-worst airport in the world by SleepinginAirports.net.

1. Keflavik International Airport -Keflavik, Iceland

Daria Medvedeva / Shutterstock

Almost all international visitors arrive through Keflavik International Airport, which is about 31 miles outside Reykjavik. Iceland’s proximity to Greenland makes a trip to both countries in the same day a distinct and rare possibility.

Along with its excellent scenery of Iceland’s flatlands, mountains and bodies of water the Keflavik International Airport offers a unique history. Keflavik was built during World War II by the United States military specifically to hold American planes capable of dishing out heavy bombers. After the war in 1947, the airport was given to Iceland and changed to its current name. Despite a relatively small population (300,000) the Icelandic airport schedules flights from 10 U.S. cities, four Canadian and 31 across Europe. It may be important to note that while prices of alcohol are very high at this airport, they are much lower in the rest of the country. As well, customs limits travelers to “just” six liters of beer and one liter of spirits. Don’t forget to take in all the beautiful scenery which can be seen from the terminal windows, including Iceland’s famous hot springs.

The 10 Most Beautiful And Underrated Cities In South America

Throughout South America, there are some beautiful cities, yet they don’t get the acclaim they deserve. If you are planning a trip to South America, you may want to stay out of the cities that are so tourist-focused and instead try one of the other cities that are underrated yet just as beautiful. Many of these cities have stayed hidden from the places to visit simply because they are not as popular as some of the other cities. Some of these cities can be a little hard to get to as there are no airports directly into them. If you want to rent a car or take a bus, however, they are worth seeing.

10. Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Many people have no idea that this city exists and is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s more impressive than Niagara Falls in Canada and has a total of 275 water falls making up the landscape. Depending on where you go to see the falls, you will be in Argentina, Brazil or Paraguay.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

9. Huacachina, Peru

This small city is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert. It is a relatively new city, having been built around the 1930s. The locals decided to build around the lake that was there. It’s still slow to attract tourists, but there are plenty of things to see and do. Legend has it that a mermaid lives in the lake and many people go just to catch a glimpse. There are also tons of opportunities to go sand buggying.

Huacachina, Peru

8. Fortaleza, Brazil

While everyone spends their time in Rio, you can visit Fortaleza, which is the fifth largest city. There are beautiful beaches found here and has a vibrant nightlife. Forro music and dance has come out of this city as well as several different comedians. Parades can take place throughout the year as well, which can add to the party aspect of the city.

Fortaleza, Brazil

7. Asuncion, Paraguay

This is the capital of the country and offers a lot of different sights. There are only about 500,000 residents and most of the city can be explored by foot. You can come by car, plane, or boat into the city and then take advantage of the National Cathedral, the Municipal Museum and much more. There is also a trade fair every July with food, music and exhibition booths. Right outside the city is San Bernardino with the Lago Ypacarai, which is popular for those interested in water sports.

Asuncion, Paraguay

6. Montevideo, Uruguay

It may be the capital of the country, but it’s underrated because people would rather visit Buenos Aires or other places in South America. This city may have an industrial port, but there is also 14 miles of beaches as well as a historic city center with restored buildings that follow an Art Deco or Art Nouveau style. There is even a bronze replica of David by Michelangelo in the city.

Montevideo, Uruguay

5. Loja, Ecuador

Loja is a city in the southern part of the Andrean Highlands and you won’t want to miss the Podocarpus National Park. There are several different museums throughout the city as well as the botanical gardens with a living laboratory inside of it. There are more than 800 species of plants for viewing. It is one of the oldest cities and there are also stunning squares and churches to see throughout the area. You will have plenty of opportunities to explore by foot, including a hike through the national park.

Glenn R. Specht-grs photo / Shutterstock.com
Glenn R. Specht-grs photo / Shutterstock.com

4. Patagonia, Chile

There are many other cities that you will probably be told to visit before Patagonia, but there are just as many reasons to go here. It is a quiet area without a lot of tourists coming through. One of the main sights to see is that of Torres del Paine National Park. There are some incredible mountains that are often covered in at least some snow as well as ice-blue lakes that you will want to explore. You can hike through or take a tour, making it worth your time to visit.

Patagonia, Chile

3. Valparaiso, Chile

This is not the most popular city to go to in Chile, as many people prefer to go to Santiago, which is about two hours away. This is a beautiful port city with colorful homes lining the hillside. Many of the historic buildings have been renovated to become trendy restaurants and boutique hotels. There are several Bohemian neighborhoods and a few 19th century mansions. A museum also has items from Pablo Neruda, a Nobel laureate.

Valparaiso, Chile

2. Potosi, Bolivia

Potosi has history that dates back to 1546 when silver deposits were discovered. It is still one of the wealthiest cities in South America because of the silver mines. Colonial mansions and churches can be found throughout the city and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are tours of the mines available and a city panorama has a beautiful amount of lights that are welcoming at night. It’s close to other cities, so it’s worth a side trip.

Potosi, Bolivia

1. Georgetown, Guyana

Georgetown is the capital and largest city of Guyana and offers a lot of beautiful sites. There is an array of markets as well as wooden colonial buildings. The Promenade Gardens and Independence Square are must-sees and there is also a zoo. Botanical Gardens is also a free site that has an array of flowers, including Victoria Lilies, the national flower. There is also a rum distillery as well as a party mansion that belongs to Pauly Shore.

Georgetown, Guyana