The Top Destinations Being Destroyed By Tourism

More people than ever before in history are exploring beyond the boundaries of their own country to take in the incredible beauty the world has to offer. In fact, tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with over 1.1 billion people traveling internationally in 2015 alone!

While travel certainly has many economic benefits, such as providing people with jobs, it also has some negative impacts as well. For these 10 natural wonders and historic sites, the swell of tourists has begun to threaten their long-term preservation. If we’re not careful, we could destroy these precious places for good.

10. Venice, Italy

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It’s no secret that Venice is sinking, and the hordes of tourists that flock there each year certainly aren’t helping. During peak season, the picturesque floating city can see upwards of 80,000 tourists per day, making it so overcrowded that some of the main tourist attractions become inaccessible. And many of these tourists are brought to the city by cruise ships, whose traffic threatens the waterways and historic areas they travel through.

9. Great Pyramids, Egypt

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Of the original Seven Wonders of the World, only the Great Pyramid of Giza remains. At the current rate of deterioration, however, it—along with the Sphinx other pyramids at the historic site—may not be around for much longer. Many decades of mass tourism to this area of Egypt has led to irreparable damage to these ancient structures, and any attempt to restore them has only led to further destruction.

8. Roman Colosseum, Italy

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The grandeur of Rome’s Colosseum is certainly not what it was when it opened in the year 80 AD. Almost 2,000 years of wear and tear has not been kind to the structure, nor have tourists, who have been caught moving or stealing stones and graffiting the remaining pillars. Although the site is now mainly piles of broken stone, it is a historic site from which there is still much to be learned and needs to be preserved and respected as such.

7. Stonehenge, United Kingdom

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The still-unexplained phenomenon that is Stonehenge draws many thousands of tourists each year. They have, unfortunately, caused quite a bit of damage to the prehistoric stones by chipping away at them, and restoration attempts have not returned them to historical accuracy. Several busy roadways that are located in close proximity also threaten the area.

6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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Proudly displayed on Cambodia’s flag, this ancient temple boasts classical style Khmer architecture and is one of the country’s top attractions. While money from tourism is used to restore the structure, it is one of the leading causes of its damage. Not just from foot traffic either; graffiti has been found on many of the walls. Unless the government takes action to limit tourist traffic, this World Heritage site could be destroyed beyond repair.

5. Antarctica

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This once-remote location is no longer quite so. The rise in cruise ship traffic has increased water pollution, threatening the continent’s coastline and the species that inhabit it. Fortunately, the Antarctic Treaty has limited the number of people on-shore to 100 at a time, and ships that carry more than 500 passengers are not allowed at any of the landing sites.

4. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

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Since being featured as a private paradise in the 2000 film The Beach, the Phi Phi islands of Thailand have become a bucket list destination for many. The pristine beaches and clear water of these virgin islands may not last for much longer, however, as the rise in tourism has attracted resort developers. It seems as though Thailand is serious about preserving their land though, as another popular tourist island, Koh Tachai, was recently closed indefinitely to tourists in order to allow the environment to rehabilitate.

3. Great Wall of China

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Although it once stretched more than 5,000 miles, over the years approximately two thirds of the Great Wall of China has been destroyed. This is largely due to the thousands of tourists that walk, vandalize and graffiti it each year, but also because of environmental erosion and sections being torn down to make way for development. A lack of government funding for protection of the Great Wall mean these factors will continue to threaten it in future.

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

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Located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the ancient Inca village of Machu Picchu is truly a sight to behold. It’s no wonder it tops many people’s bucket lists. But such a massive influx of visitors has threatened the preservation of this ancient archaeology; UNESCO has even considered placing it on their list of World Heritage in Danger. The country’s government currently limits the number of tourists to 2,500 per day, but even that may be too many to prevent irreparable damage.

1. Galapagos Islands

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The incredibly diverse ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands is what helped Charles Darwin develop his Theory of Natural Selection, but it is incredibly fragile to outside influence. So much so, that UNESCO placed the location on its World Heritage in Danger list in 2007. In order to preserve the land and its wildlife, many tourist restrictions have been put in place—including the requirement that a licensed guide accompany all visitors of Galapagos National Park.

8 Fantastic Free Things to Do in the Galapagos Islands

Vacationing in the Galapagos Islands is a dream shared by countless outdoor adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts. Like any vacation, a trip to this Darwinian dreamscape can be planned on a fairly limited budget, after all the biggest attractions are naturally occurring and available to anyone with a little ambition and a good pair of shoes. There are even beachfront areas allowing camping with park permission which can take the heat off your wallet. One of the most promising items to pack is a decent snorkel and mask–snorkeling opportunities abound.

8. Bird Watch at Las Tijeritas

Las Tijeritas is one of the best places for bird watching in the Galapagos Islands and within walking distance of Port Baquerizo Moreno, the former home of a fishing community named La Predial and in operation between 1952 through 1960. Approach to Las Tijeritas is via the main avenue leading to Playa Mann. There’s a 5.6 kilometer hike here–easily done without a guide–which showcases some of the fantastic outdoor island scenery. The loop varies in elevation and there’s a great cove on route to enjoy some snorkeling and cool off from hiking in the hot sun. The cove is home to several species commonly found in the Galapagos Islands including sea lions, a wide variety of birds, and turtles. The main attractions is the Frigate bird colony; this is one of the only island spots you’ll witness two nesting colonies in the same place.

Great Frigate Bird Galapagos

7. Visit Jacinto Gordillo Giant Tortoise Breeding Center

The Jacinto Gordillo Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela Island is the perfect place to spend a morning or afternoon in the company of the monstrous turtles the Galapagos Islands have become famous for. The onsite museum is a well-planned education center where visitors can learn about the mating process and also see baby tortoises. To get there, walk through the wetlands of the town, which is an interesting experience in itself. The route winds through the wetlands, passing pink flamingos and sunbathing iguanas, some quite large in size. The tortoise center is located in a thick, lush forest, a natural habitat of the giant animals. Jacinto Gordilla’s mission began following a severe decline of the giant tortoise population; the center allows turtles to live in a natural habitat cordoned off for protection from predators.

Giant tortise Isabela Island Galapagos

6. Hike Volcan Sierra Negra

Isabela Island’s five volcanoes are big attractions, with Sierra Negra the most popular one for hiking. Aside from Yellowstone, Sierra Negra is the biggest volcano with a cauldron-shaped top which is a natural feature (usually created by collapsing earth) fittingly called a caldera. Sierra Negra, (a shield volcano rupturing every three to six years) is largely flat and reminiscent of a knight’s shield laid horizontally on the ground. The volcanic eruptions aren’t film-worthy explosions blasting piping hot lava from the top but more ash and gas ejecting at a steady pace. For some, its anticlimactic.  Almost 100 fern species and the 16-foot candelabra cactus are just two of hundreds of fascinating plants growing across the volcano. Expect the hike to last around two hours and involve some strenuous exercise over a gradual but persistent incline; then prepare for some gorgeous, 360-degree island vistas.

Volcan Sierra Negra Galapagos

5. Spot Sharks at Night in Puerto Chino

Located on the southeast side of San Cristobal Island where land starts to careen northward, Puerto Chino is a small port town and home to a small and quiet beach where, with permission from national park officials, visitors can camp overnight. A bit of a trek from the main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the long walk is still worth the effort of getting there. The beach itself is stunning though many skip the sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling and come instead around sunset to crowd around the ship ports where sharks congregate at night. If night-time shark viewing sounds interesting, this is one of the best places to do it. The lights shining along the port for the arriving and departing ships can attract dozens of sharks to the water’s edge where you’ll get excellent views of the majestic mammals.

Marisa Estivill / Shutterstock.com
Marisa Estivill / Shutterstock.com

4. Explore Puerto Villamil

Remote Isabela Island is home to less than 3,000 people, most who live in this small, peaceful, and interesting town. Tourism has increased but at a fairly slow pace. Traditionally a fishing and agricultural town, the harbor is a busy spot and a great place to people-watch. The town’s resident’s are friendly and the atmosphere quite enchanting. It’s a great place to chill with the locals, explore small shops and eateries, and enjoy an easy walking tour. To the southwest of town is a long boardwalk constructed by the park which carves through a mangrove forest dotted with saltwater lagoons home to pintails, common stilts, flamingos, and other birds combing the mud in search of saltwater brine. The boardwalk ends at the Tortoise Breeding Center. There’s also a great beach nearby and good shark viewing in the channels between a series of small islets southeast of town.

Puerto Villamil Galapagos

3. Cliff Jump at Las Grietas

Las Grietas, meaning crevice in Spanish, is a popular spot for cliff jumping on Santa Cruz Island. The rocky, escarpment is accessible via a hike featuring scenic lava rocks and salt water lagoons and requires solid shoes with good grip. The fjords of Las Grietas extend from Estrada Point to Academy End. Between the crevice is a body of water that is a mix of rain and sea water, a few kilometers deep, and comprising a one-of-a-kind ecosystem. The hiking is fairly easy but increases in difficulty when it comes time to descend a steep and rocky staircase onto a section naturally made of rocks–a slow and steady climb is key here. The cliffs can become really crowded with tourists so try to make your way over earlier in the day rather than later. Take a snorkel and enjoy some magnificent underwater views.

Photo by: IES Abroad
Photo by: IES Abroad

2. Sunbathe on Playa Mann

Centrally located and convenient to many places throughout San Cristobal Island, Playa Mann is on San Cristobal Island, the most easterly of the Galapagos Islands. San Cristobal is just ten minutes from Puerto Baquerizo, the island’s capital, and a good place to use as a base for exploring. Though not quite as developed for tourism as some of the other island towns, tourism, along with fishing, are the main industries. Across the way from the University San Francisco‑Gaiás, Playa Mann’s biggest attractions is the unfolding scene of lazy, lounging sea lions coming shore for a break and lounging along the beach and rock formations in the shallower waters. Exceptionally clear water and white sand are also stars of this waterfront backdrop and with such clear water, snorkeling is ideal. Fishing, diving, and surfing are also possibilities but require renting equipment.

Photo by: Youtube/Jérémy Fontaine
Photo by: Youtube/Jérémy Fontaine

1. Watch Sea Lions at La Loberia

Exceptionally playful sea lions are all around the Galapagos Islands. Healthy in population, they can be seen in great numbers at a large majority of oceanfront areas, especially beaches with rocky outcrops providing ideal spots for these sunbathing beauties. You might go for the sea lions but what you’ll find is a scenic crescent bay on San Cristobal Island and fantastic snorkeling. Roughly a forty minute walk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, this is another stunning island beach with a pristine backdrop and a perfect spot to wile away the day kicking back on the sand and exploring the forest fringes.  The sea lions are so accustomed to people they’ll curiously swim around you in the shallows and have no problem catching a nearby nap while you snap away. Keep a lookout for yellow warblers, lava lizards, frigate birds, and immense iguanas.

Sea Lion galapagos

The Top Places To See Before It’s Too Late

Technically we are all in places that are about to change drastically. There are many remote idyllic, places being threatened by climate change that face melting glaciers or catastrophic flooding. But then so does Miami. Whether it’s rising sea levels, desertification, torrential monsoons, melting glaciers or ocean acidification, climate change is rapidly altering the landscape of our planet and perhaps about to destroy some of the world’s legendary vacation spots. Then there is the traditional destruction inflicted by human error and downright imbecility. More hotel rooms, spas and golf courses are part of the inherent contradictions of tourism increasing accessibility means increasing degradation. There seems to be no solution to that equation. We will be one of the last generations to see some of the Earth’s most cherished places. Here’s our list of 20 places to see before they vanish to climate change, over development and encroachment. It’s a survey of various sources from CNN to MNN (as in Mother Nature Network), at the same time being quite conscious of the other contradiction that advising more people to visit already vulnerable sites is farther contributing to the degradation. Perhaps you can solve that moral quandary by designing am environmentally sensitive visit. Or contribute to conservancy groups that are fighting to save them.

20. Gozo, Malta

CNN has this theory that once a foreign city is featured in a blockbuster movie, it takes a hit from an influx of curious tourists. Gozo, population 37,000 is a short ferry ride from Malta. Its website proudly proclaims its natural beauty, its “tortoise-like pace” and amazing history. Gozo means ‘joy’ in Castilian, so named at its founding in 1282. Last year Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt shot their latest film “By the Sea” there. Directed by Jolie, it appears to be a drama about an artistic couple’s fading marriage with Gozo subbing for France. CNN warns that “There are few better advertisements for a destination than a good movie,” and expects hordes of Brangelina fans to disturb the tranquility in search of the places the couple tried to rekindle their romance.

Gozo Malta

19. St. Kitts

With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is passing under the spell of the Evil Trinity of tourism; Big name hotel chains, golf course designers and marina builders. It is being done in the name of sustainability which may be easier to do environmentally that in preserving the spirit of a place heading to over development. When they open the world’s first edible golf course, you know the gimmicks have just begun.

St. Kitts

18. The Seychelles

National Geographic rates the beach at Anse Source d’Argent as the best in the world. One of nature’s most convincing versions of paradise. The beauty of the pink sand, the coral reef sheltered by massive granite boulders brings many beach lovers to this archipelago of more than a hundred islands in the Indian Ocean but the water rises relentlessly, the perfect beaches are eroding and its coral reef, like others around the world is being degraded. Barring some miraculous engineering innovation or divine intervention, many of the islands could be lost in the next 50 years.

Seychelles

17. The Athabasca Glacier, Canada

With its relatively convenient location in mid-Alberta between Banff and Jasper National Parks, The Athabasca Glacier attracts more tourists than any other on the continent. It is also the largest ice field between the poles. It’s a kind of frozen tributary of the massive Columbia Ice Fields. But with ice fields north of 90, as old hands call the Arctic, the Athabasca at 52 degrees north latitude is in for The Big Melt. Parks Canada estimates it’s receding up to ten feet a year. At this rate maybe too far gone for the next generation to experience.

Athabasca Glacier Canada

16. St. Helena

In its own way, St. Helena is an exotic destination. A volcanic speck of 50 square miles in the middle of the south Atlantic, it is the definition of remote, 4,000 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. Let’s face it, after Waterloo, the British were not about to exile Napoleon in Paradise. Part of its cache is that getting there is a challenge, by the Royal Mail ship St. Helena from Cape Town, Walvis Bay or Ascension Island. It’s somewhat for bird watching and its rugged terrain protects well preserved Georgian buildings. After Longwood, Napoleon’s home after 1815 (now a museum), the island’s biggest celebrity draw is Jonathon the tortoise, age 180 and going strong. The British have sunk the better part of half a billion dollars into an airport for the tiny island to open early in 2016. For that chunk of change, expect more than the usual 3,000 or so visitors soon.

St. Helena Island

15. Taj Mahal, India

Even the great frescoes of the Sistine Chapel dulled with age and the emission from centuries of candle smoke and neglect. But they were inside the walls of a building in the First World, whereas the Taj Mahal is neither. The whole point of the spectacular tribute to an Emperor’s late wife, is its pristine whiteness indicative of the purity of their love. But the air quality in India’s major cities is worse than the horrific pollution levels of Beijing. Fading to yellow or rust is not just a cosmetic downgrade it degrades its very meaning. An ornate mausoleum of white marble, The Taj Mahal is the sparkling jewel of Muslim art in India. Built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, The Taj currently has more than 3 million visitors a year and the heat, foot traffic and toxic air are beginning to undermine the building’s structural integrity. It’s not hard to see a lengthy shutdown for restoration in the near future, not to mention banning people from going inside.

Taj Mahal

14. Dead Sea

There is the old joke that someone says he’s so old he remembers when the Dead Sea was only sick. Sadly that’s no longer just a joke. It is being sucked dry by the water-desperate countries around it who are helping themselves to the water in the River Jordan, the sea’s main source. It has shrunk by a third in size and scientists fear if the rate of attrition continues, the intensely salted water some claim has medicinal qualities, has maybe 50 years of life left.

Dead Sea

13. The Galapagos Islands

Truth be told Europeans have been abusing the Galapagos since the late 19th century when pirates used it as a base to launch their raids. Darwin didn’t arrive until 1835 to begin on what would become The Origin of the Species 25 years later. Now there are pages of tours echoing the name of his ship The Beagle. The islands are threatened by too many people. Too many insensitive people acting reprehensibly to degrade this natural treasure to take the greatest selfies and poach plants and animals (not necessarily at the same time.) The prognosis is much better than many other sites however because the ecosystem, while delicate, can still be saved by limiting if not stopping altogether, the onslaught of tourists. So if it’s on your bucket list…tread lightly.

Galapagos Islands

12. Glacier National Park Montana

In fact, anything with the word “Glacier’ in its name or title may be at risk, barring some miraculous reversal in climate change, the effects are well documented. They are living on borrowed time, the more temperate the climate the more critical the patient. The number of glaciers in the stunningly beautiful Glacier National Park on the Montana-Canada border has shrunk by 75% in the last century. Pessimistic estimates say the glaciers and the ecosystem that depends on them could be gone by 2030. The good news if you’re into dark humor; the surfing in Montana is about to improve dramatically.

Glacier Bay National Park Montana

11. South Australia

One of those areas facing the climate change double whammy, coastal flooding and interior desertification the Australian government has studied and published many daunting studies on the effects. Rising sea levels will threaten hundreds of miles of beaches and the lovely city of Adelaide will be put at risk. The soaring temperatures and absence of rain in the interior will challenge some of the most renowned wine growing regions in the world, including the Barossa and Clare Valleys. While the region accounts for only 7% of Australia’s population, it is also responsible for half of the $1.3 billion in wine exports. Unless you are entertained somehow by catastrophic flooding and drought, best to go soon.

McLaren Vale, South Australia

10. Greek Islands

There are 6,000 islands from Aegina to Zaforas in the Ionian and Aegean seas off the Greek coast. Only 227 are inhabited and only 50 have airports. Traveling between them has always been a question of taking leisurely ferries with shall we say occasionally regular schedules. Until now after a Greek airline has announced to connect another 100 by seaplane. As always accessibility is a mixed blessing. The islands of Crete, Skyros and Pelion are first on the list with more to come as early as year’s end. Book accordingly. Unless you like crowded beaches, then this is your lucky year.

Aigiali village in Amorgos island in Greece

9. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

The famous falls are twice the height of Niagara with a fraction of the tourists. At least until the new Victoria Falls International Airport, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia, border opens in the fall of 2015. It’s being built to handle what pilots call “Heavy Metal”, wide body A340’s and Boeing 777’s and their human cargo. It will be a huge boost for the tourism sector in the long-suffering country. The five regional airlines that used the old airport will be joined by British British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and Kenya Airways, just to start.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

An idyllic place. Everything you wish for in a Caribbean destination. And less, without the crowds, partiers and such. Beaches rank among the best in the world, coral reefs provide diving that’s to die for, it’s care free relaxation in a setting almost too beautiful to be true. But it’s always been a bit of a schlep to get there by connecting flight. The new $250,000,000 Argyle International Airport , will come with direct flights to North American and European cities increasing capacity by at least 400%. Plus it is upgrading its port infrastructure to bring in more cruise ships whose environmental record has been somewhere between bad and wretched. The good news for would-be visitors is that the airport is behind schedule for those who would like to have the island experience before it gets paved and up go the condos.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

7. Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is a scenic, unspoiled place with coastal towns lost to time and lots of fishing spots locals love. It has been fast-tracked to the environmental critical list by a crazy ambitious $50 billion Chinese-backed project to build a canal three times the length of the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea and hence the Atlantic, in the process trampling through prized lakes, wetlands, coral reefs and any number of delicate ecosystems in Central America and the Caribbean. The Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences warns “this canal would create an environmental disaster in Nicaragua and beyond. Tourist visits have soared since the construction started.

Lake Nicaragua

6. Papua New Guinea

There is an automatic exoticism to the south Pacific and in the case of Papua New Guinea, it’s enhanced by its status as one of the last truly unexplored places on earth. The government has expressed a “wish” to maintain the rarely seen villages as the basis for its society. It’s a nice gesture, but at the same time they’re expanding the almost non-existent tourism infrastructure starting with cruise ships and with them a fading chance to experience a land not far removed from first contact.

Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com
Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com

5. The Alps, Europe

The mighty Alps are facing an uphill battle they can’t win. The evidence is incremental but unmistakable. The temperature, even on peaks over 10,000 feet has been steadily rising. The elevation at which snow falls and accumulates is falling. Towns and cities dependent on skiing for their livelihoods are taking strong measures to lower local CO2 emissions, but climate change scientists say the effects of climate change could hit hard by 2040. So maybe the problem will be solved by then, it still leaves you at least 25 years to book, but after that forget the skies and take hiking boots and sunblock.

French Alps

4. Venice, Italy

Like the famous writer Mark Twain, reports of the death of Venice have been greatly exaggerated. The magical kingdom of canals and Renaissance masterpieces has been written off many times before. But the severe flooding it has long suffered has become deeper and more chronic. When you can stop on your way to St. Mark’s and, bend down and catch fish with your bare hands, the fat lady may not be singing but is definitely warming up. The prognosis: the only people to see Venice past the 22nd century are likely scuba divers and snorkelers. However, the city has miraculously hung tough before. It may not be clear just how just yet, but surely no expense will be spared to save one of the greatest treasures on the planet.

Venice Italy Lagoons

3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Another long running natural disaster that could have been easily mitigated by sustainable practices. The fabulous reef has been assaulted not only by climate change but by human stupidity. Higher water temperatures and its older foes of pollution and acidification from ever rising carbon dioxide emissions are killing off the corals at an alarming rate. More recent threats are damage caused by the development of Australian ports to export coal to China, thereby contributing to more CO2, hence more damage to the reef and its $4 billion in tourist income. A whole new enemy has emerged as well in industrial overfishing which doesn’t directly damage reefs around the world, but destroys the fish stocks that are part of its ecosystem. The wonderful reef in Belize is facing the same threat of death by coral bleaching.

Great Barrier Reef Fish

2. Cuba

Oh the irony. According to CNN, the son of Che Guevara, the iconic Marxist guerrilla leader, has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, launching a motorcycle tour company for the biking crowd to see the island from behind their choppers. With the easing of American travel restrictions, the fabric of the island is in for rapid change for the less impoverished though not necessarily better. Not to revel in other’s poverty but the anachronism of the island frozen in a time warp by antiquated Communist central planning was part of the charm, like the famous 1950’s vintage vehicles constantly repaired and rebuilt out of economic necessity. The wonderful beaches are already popular and if there are bikers, the massive cruise ships won’t be far behind. Hemingway’s Havana is already on borrowed time.

Kamira / Shutterstock.com
Kamira / Shutterstock.com

1. Antarctica

Expect to see more headlines like this one from the BBC: “Should tourists be banned from Antarctica?” It’s feared that Antarctica is shedding up to 160 billion tons of ice annually and rising. The biggest threat to the ice cap is warming temperatures, not humans. Less than 40,000 people visit every year and only a quarter of them actually go ashore. Tour companies abide by strict international guidelines to limit human impact but those guidelines are voluntary. That human impact may be minimal, but any additional pressure on an increasingly vulnerable ecosystem is critical. There will be many more calls for restrictions to follow the BBC’s warnings. It won’t disappear in a century but trips to see it may be extinct long before.

Antarctica

Lonely Planet’s Best Animal Adventures for Families

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

9. Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, Chengdu, China

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

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

8. Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A

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

Yellowstone National Park

7. Goats in Trees, Essaouira, Morocco

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

Goats in Trees, Essaouira, Morocco

6. Refugio Nacional de Fauna Silvestre Ostional, Costa Rica

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

Photo by: Efetur
Photo by: Efetur

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

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

Photo by: CNN
Photo by: CNN

4. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

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

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

3. Walkabout Wildlife Park, New South Wales, Australia

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

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

2. Monkey Rescue, Pretoria, South Africa

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

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

1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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

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

Chasing Summer: 10 Escapes From Winter

Autumn has arrived in the northern hemisphere and with it, a sense of sadness for many people. Whether you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or just like the long, hot days of summer, this time of year can be rough. But we often forget that just because it’s fall here doesn’t mean it’s fall everywhere. The southern hemisphere’s seasons are reversed, meaning countries on the other side of the equator experience their spring and summer while the north moves through fall and winter. If you want to follow the sun, these 10 destinations should help you escape:

10. Seychelles

Whether or not you’re trying to escape the cold of winter, the Seychelles should be on your bucket list. This African nation, comprised of a number of individual tropical islands, is warm just about any time of the year. Temperatures reach their peak between December and April, with March and April recording the warmest temperatures of the year, usually in the high 80s (low 30s Celsisu). Although the climate can be humid, especially between December and April, the islands are not usually affected by high winds or tropical storms. The islands have a reputation as “paradise,” and renowned for a diversity of plants and animals, gorgeous landscapes, great beaches and plentiful outdoor activities. Visit any time between September and April if you’re looking to get away from the northern hemisphere’s fall and winter.

Seychelles

9. Indonesia

If you’re trying to chase summer, you shouldn’t jump south of the equator right away. September through December is spring in the south, so save those destinations for later. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to get away from the increasing hours of darkness and the frosty weather autumn brings with it, an equatorial destination should be your first consideration. Indonesia lies along the equator and, like many equatorial areas, it experiences 2 season: a dry season and a monsoon season. The temperature varies little throughout the course of the year (averaging 26 degrees Celsius), and the length of the day is relatively constant: there is only 48 minutes difference between the longest and shortest days of the year. That’s good news for anyone looking to escape the longer nights of autumn and winter in the north. September and October are good months to visit Indonesia; the rainy season starts in November.

Bali, Indonesia

8. French Polynesia

With over 100 islands and atolls, the overseas collective of French Polynesia makes an excellent destination for those travelers looking to get away from chilly weather in northern climes. The islands, the most famous of which are Tahiti and Bora Bora, have well-developed tourist industries and they are often equated with tropical paradise. There are 4 volcanic islands and 1 coral island in the 5 archipelagos. Both Tahiti and Bora Bora are volcanic, and both provide opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as other water activities. The temperature on the French Polynesia islands varies little from season to season; December through February are the wettest months, however. If you can, travel to these islands in September, October or November when temperatures are still warm but rainfall is significantly less.

Bora Bora 5

7. Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe might seem like a strange choice; the country has experienced some political and economic instability in the past decade. But these 2 African islands are rich in culture, history and ecology, which make them great destinations for travelers looking to get off the beaten path. The 2 islands, located about 87 miles apart, lie approximately 150 miles off the coast of Gabon. The influence of Portuguese colonizers is still evident in the country’s religious and linguistic traditions, but music and cuisine better reflect a fusion of African and Portuguese heritages. The islands are part of the Cameroon volcanic mountain line, and the tallest peak is Pico de Principe at over 3,000 feet. The equator passes over an islet just south of Sao Tome island, which means the climate is tropical and temperatures hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

Sao Tome and Principe Africa

6. Brazil

It’s hard to make generalizations about climate in a country as big and diverse as Brazil, but here’s what you need to know: the average temperature is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (around 25 degrees Celsius) and the temperature difference between night and day is more significant than changes in the seasons. That said, Brazil is home to more than 5 different climate types, and part of the country actually lies north of the equator. Rainfall between December and April can be quite significant, especially in the Amazon region, which is humid but rarely exceeds temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). The various microclimates make Brazil one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, which means there’s plenty to see in all of Brazil’s ecozones. Or, if an Amazon trek doesn’t suit you, the country’s Atlantic coast is home to some excellent beaches.

Ipanema beach Brazil

5. Galapagos

At first glance, you might think the Galapagos Islands, scattered on either side of the equator as they are, would be perfect candidates for an autumnal escape between September and December. In fact, it’s better to visit the Galapagos in December or later, because of the effects of the Humboldt Current, which brings cold water to the islands. Between June and November, the islands experience frequent drizzle, cold winds and cool temperatures. It still rains during the other 6 months of the year, but the temperatures are warmer and the sun shines more frequently. For that reason, the Galapagos make an excellent winter destination; they teem with life at any time of year, from finches to tortoises to penguins. Bird-watching is especially popular, and many species nest between December and May.

Galapagos Islands

4. Fiji

The Melanesian island-nation of Fiji is a dream destination for a lot of people. Located near Vanuatu, Tonga and the Samoas, among others, the island is something of a tropical paradise. With an advanced tourism industry, Fiji offers a great escape from wintery weather in the northern latitudes. Located in the South Pacific, the island is renowned for outdoor activities like scuba diving and ocean kayaking. Fiji has a number of white-sand beaches, which are attractive to visitors. Perhaps the best thing about the island-nation is its climate: there is little seasonal variation, so the weather is warm year-round. November through April is considered the “warm” season, with temperatures slightly higher than the rest of the year, so consider Fiji a romantic escape from frigid temperatures and snowfall in more northerly places.

Fiji Jetty

3. Chile

Chile lies in the southern hemisphere and throughout most of the country, there are 4 seasons. Here, the seasons are inverse to the northern hemisphere, which means you can take off from winter north of the equator and land in Chilean summer. Chile is a diverse country, though, spanning no less than 7 different climatic subtypes, from the dry Atacama desert in the north to alpine tundra in the extreme south. The Andes also run through the country, offering up even more diverse climes. The warmest month is February and rainfall during the summer months is minimal throughout much of the country—something noted by European explorers to the area in the 1500s. Clear nights in the Atacama Desert make for great star-gazing. Or why not embark on a wine tour in Central Chile’s vineyards?

Vineyard Chile

2. Australia

Australia is likely the first place anyone thinks of when we talk about the southern hemisphere; the land down under has a certain reputation with folks in the north. While it’s true that the continent is protected from the wintry airmasses that sweep across northerly continents, which minimizes the impact of seasonal change on temperature, summer is still inverse to the northern hemisphere. That means that you can visit Australia between December and February and experience not winter, but summer weather. Temperatures are usually in the high 70s to low 90s (mid-20s to low 30s Celsius), which means you can get outside and enjoy all of your favorite summertime activities. Or maybe a trip down under is a chance to try something new, like surfing at Broad Beach or trailblazing through the Outback.

Hamilton Island Whitsundays Australia

1. Maldives

The Maldives are perhaps most infamous for slowly sinking thanks to rising sea levels, but they also have a reputation as a tourist destination. The Maldives are a chain of 1,192 coral islands in a double atoll, and, as such, the country is one of the most geographically dispersed in the world. Located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India and Sri Lanka, the islands experience a tropical-monsoon type climate. January through March provides the best time to visit the islands, as temperatures hover in the high 80s (around 30 degrees Celsius) and rainfall is at its lowest for the year; February is the driest month of the year. The islands are famed for their blue lagoons and white beaches, which have traditionally driven tourism, but they are also becoming a hotspot for ecotourism as the country attempts to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2020.

Maldives sunset

Lonely Planet’s 10 Most Accessible Vacation Destinations for 2016

The world’s population is rapidly aging and this is having an impact on global business and tourism as companies are slowly starting to realize that accessibility is not just an issue that must be addressed for those with a disability. It’s a real issue that many grey nomads are putting some extra thought into before booking their next vacation. Lonely Planet agrees that with an aging baby boomer population that isn’t willing to slow down when it comes to travel, accessibility is becoming paramount. With this in mind they’ve put together this list of the most accessible vacation destinations for 2016:

10. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Snowbirds love to head south in the winter, and mexico is a popular winter destination for many including those over the age of 65. Playa del Carmen is only an hour away from Cancun airport but it’s a far cry from the lively Spring Break destination city. Accessible hotels are available and the beach is also easy to navigate with the help of special beach wheelchairs and even special equipment to help you snorkel, even if you can’t swim.

wheelchair accessible beach

9. Barcelona, Spain

The tourism agencies of Spain and especially the Catalonia region have been pushing the importance of accessible tourism for quite some time now. As a result, 80 per cent of metro stations and 100 per cent of public buses are wheelchair accessible. And unlike many old historic cities, the old town of Barcelona is cobblestone free reducing the risks of trip and falls and making it easier for those with walkers and wheelchairs.

Plaza Barcelona, Spain

8. Galápagos and Amazonia, Ecuador

After watching these nature-centric destinations on programs like Planet Earth, they may not seem like an option for those with mobility issues, however they’re a lot closer in reach thanks to Lenín Moreno, a paraplegic who was the vice president of Ecuador from 2006-2013. Moreno’s work is responsible for the inroads in accessibility in this largely inaccessible continent.

blue footed booby

7. Sicily, Italy

When one thinks of Italy, images of cobblestone streets and elevated countryside usually come to mind -not exactly the picture of accessibility. But Lonely Planet says Sicily is breaking new ground on this front and is home to a tactile museum and Europe’s only sensorial botanic garden. Two Guinness world records have also been set here by people with disabilities; the first paraplegic to dive to 59m and first blind woman to dive to 41m.

Sicily, Italy Cathedral of Palermo

6. Manchester, England

Although Manchester is indeed an old city, much of the central business district was rebuilt in the late 1900s. The result is a city with wide, smooth pavements and many shopfronts, bars and restaurants that are completely step free. Perfect for those with reduced mobility. The city’s public transit is also wheelchair friendly and offers service to just about anywhere you’d want to get to in the city.

Manchester street sign

5. Melbourne, Australia

The city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia has been called the ‘best in the world’ for a lot of things, but it can now add ‘most accessible’ to that list as well. The city’s highly accessible public transit has received global praise and the compact central city core helps earn the city’s status as one of the most accessible cities in the world. Lonely Planet even has a guidebook dedicated to the subject titled ‘Accessible Melbourne.’

Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com
Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com

4. Ljubljana, Slovenia

The capital city of Slovenia is relatively flat, a fact that many aging travelers will appreciate. It’s also equipped with highly accessible public transit which features audio and video stop announcements on buses (because there’s nothing worse than missing your stop!) The main attraction of the city is the 16th century Ljubljana Castle, and while you wouldn’t expect anything built in the 16th century to be accessible, the castle is actually wheelchair accessible.

Ljubljana Castle, Slovenia

3. Singapore

Singapore is arguably the most accessible city in Asia and one of the most overall accessible in the whole world. You’ll find stepless access to most buildings and an endless supply of curb cuts to make sure there are no barriers for those in wheelchairs.  The city’s mass rail transit (MRT) and buses are also designed for the visually and motor impaired, making this city one were there are essentially no limitations.

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

2. San Diego, USA

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (which just celebrated its 25th anniversary) most of the United States is very accessible, but Lonely Planet picked San Diego, California as a standout in its class. The city is easy to get around with a fairly flat grid system and public transit is easy with a fully accessible tram system. The most notable feature is the miles long beachfront promenade which offers beach wheelchairs to those who need them.

Greta Gabaglio / Shutterstock.com
Greta Gabaglio / Shutterstock.com

1. Vienna, Austria

Like Manchester but perhaps even richer in history, Vienna is a historic city that’s been refurbished to meet modern day demands. Unlike many old European cities, its cobblestones have been removed as have many curbs and central shops, cafes and restaurants are wheelchair friendly. One of the city’s most notable attractions, the Schloss Schönbrunn is fully accessible making it a must-see for everyone, no matter your age.

Schloss Schönbrunn Vienna

8 Destinations Putting a Cap on Tourist Numbers

It is quickly becoming a hot debate as more cities and places are talking about placing limits on the number of tourists that visit each year. While some critics argue that putting a cap on the number of tourists will hurt local economies, others argue that we are quickly destroying natural environments and overcrowding cities. The age old question remains then, what is this balance? For these eight places and cities, the solution is to begin implementing a cap on tourist numbers and from Australia to Spain, only time will tell if this is the way of future travel.

8. Bhutan, South Asia

The Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan prides itself on high value, low volume tourism and lets an average of 140,000 tourists in each year. In order to visit this unspoiled landscape and culture, foreign visitors need to get a visa and book their holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. The Royal Government of Bhutan sets a minimum daily package price each month that visitors have to transfer to the Tourism Council of Bhutan; normally it is between $200-250 a day. This sounds pricey but that money covers all accommodations, meals, guides and internal transport. Part of this money also goes towards a royalty that provides free education, healthcare and poverty alleviation. There are over 75 licensed tour operators to choose from in this country and you can be promised an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you visit this awe-inspiring landscape and connect with the people here.

Photo by: EL ANDINO OUTDOOR
Photo by: EL ANDINO OUTDOOR

7. The Forbidden City, Beijing

The Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City announced plans in 2014 to limit the number of visitors to this incredible site to 80,000 a day. The reason for this tourist cap is overcrowding as this museum is the most visited museum in the world, topping over 15 million people in 2014. They are certainly making it easier for more visitors to visit in the winter, offering half price tickets as right now they see the majority of visitors in the summer. New seating, bilingual signage and a ban on tour guides using amplified microphones have all been put in place in recent years to make this experience even better for tourists. Tickets will be purchased online, letting guests know what time they can gain access to the Forbidden City, and this museum should be applauded for quickly figuring out how to reduce tourism in the best of way.

Forbidden City

6. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

These 19 islands that are located approximately 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador are home to roughly 9,000 species, both on land and in water. By the year 2007 both residents and tourists had put such a burden on the ecosystems that the UN listed the destination as an endangered heritage site. Thankfully in recent years they have developed a systematic program that regulates how many tourists are visiting each island daily. Regulations require that visitors must have a trained naturalist guide with them on each island, as the trails change in order to keep them from being overrun. New rules also came into effect that allows travelers to stay for a maximum of four nights and five days per ship. Tourists visiting the islands are only allowed to travel to specific visitor sites and must adhere to the rules and regulations that are set out by the National Parks.

Galapagos Islands

5. Machu Picchu, Peru

It wasn’t long ago that visitors were allowed to roam freely around this 15th-century site, exploring the breathtaking ruins and surrounding landscapes. New regulations are currently being implemented to limit tourists due to conservation efforts. UNESCO and Peru are working together to ensure that this site remains in its pristine condition. The daily limit was once set at 2,500 visitors but recently topped over 1.2 million visitors in 2014. New regulations will require visitors to hire an official guide to enter the Inca Citadel, follow one of three routes through the complex and will face time limits at specific points to keep the crowds moving. Although many fear this will discourage visitors from coming here, it seems unlikely that at least 2,500 won’t visit; the recommended amount.

Machu Picchu, Peru

4. Lord Howe Island, Australia

This seven-square mile island is located 370 miles off mainland Australia and offers rare flora, fauna and marine life. The surrounding crystal clear waters offer more than 400 species of fish and 90 species of coral. It also just happens to be one of the cleanest places on Earth, with 75 percent of the island’s original vegetation undisturbed. Only 350 residents call this island home and only 400 tourists are allowed to visit the island at any one time. This island is geared towards outdoor recreation so plan on snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and bird-watching if you are lucky enough to visit here. There are limited accommodations, no pubs or bars and formal restaurants don’t exist here. But if you are looking to get away from it all and experience a true authentic island, teeming with wildlife, this is the place for you.

Lord Howe Island, Australia

3. Antarctica

Tourism was growing steadily and dangerous up until 2009, when finally the 28 country members of the Antarctic Treaty decided to limit tourism in the region, to prevent it from environmental damage. Recent studies have shown that even short visits to the concentrated landing sites could have an adverse effect on the environment. The main tourism restriction here is the number of passengers and boats, any boat carrying over 500 passengers will not be allowed to dock in the region. Only one boat is allowed to dock in each dock and only 100 passengers are allowed on shore. Today visitors have to travel through operators and organizers who have been approved by their national authorities. Don’t expect to spend too much time in this pristine environment as your time both on-shore and in water will be closely monitored by officials.

Antarctica

2. The Seychelles, Africa

Yes, it is where Prince William and Kate spent their honeymoon and in recent years these islands have seen a tremendous growth of tourists, reaching more than six times the number of residents. Just recently in 2015 the minister of tourism and culture for the Seychelles told the world that they are planning a cap on annual visitors. A ban has already been put in place on the building of large hotel developments and now locally small run properties are the only one granted permission to start operations. Expect to see a cap on the number of visitors by next year, as this group of islands is determined to take the issue of sustainable travel more seriously. Although tourism is the Seychelles single biggest industry, they are determined not to demean the value of these gorgeous islands.

Seychelles

1. Barcelona

Barcelona is the most recent city to consider putting a limit on tourists as the incoming Mayor is determined to put a cap on the number of tourists by the end of 2015. Believing that the city is becoming out of hand and overrun by tourists, as in the last 13 years the numbers have doubled, there seems to be no other solution than to cap the numbers. Any visitor who has been here in the last few years has certainly noticed the throngs of people in their path as they try to make their way through the city. It has also become a sort of landing ground for young backpackers who don’t always have the best intentions. As well as introducing a cap on the number of people to visit, the new mayor also wants to put a six month freeze on new hotel developments and tourist rental apartments. Barcelona wants to assess the tourist situation and understand which areas can sustain further development and increase their intake of visitors, and which places are already overrun.

Top Cities 2013 - Barcelona

The 10 Best Scuba Diving Locations in the World

There is no better way to explore the underwater world of marine animals, shipwrecks, fascinating coral towers, limestone formations and schools of colorful fish than scuba diving. Whether you are a beginner or an expert with decades of experience, the amazing underwater world you can discover around the planet is absolutely mind-blowing. From hammerhead sharks to manta rays to ancient cenotes; these 10 locations around the world are the best of the best.

10. Cozumel, Mexico

Divers will certainly have their choice of dive operators on this island as there are more than 100 offering everything from deep dives, wreck dives, night dives, and underwater photography dives. This world-class diving site offers everything from swim throughs to tunnels to walls of coral to cenotes to sharks to rays. It is best to dive here in the summer when the water temperature is warmer and the hotel prices are cheaper. Cozumel is also known for its incredible visibility and deep dives. Divers can expect up to 100 feet of visibility. There are plenty of dives both for the beginner and advanced but visitors should be aware that the current can be especially strong in some sites and diving experience is recommend for these. With the 600-mile long Maya Reef that stretches from Cozumel to Central America, and boasts an abundance of colorful fish and coral, it is easy to see why Cozumel is a premier diving spot.

Cozumel, Mexico

9. Hawaii, U.S.A

This Pacific paradise attracts divers from all over the world, both beginners and experienced. The remoteness of Hawaii means fewer fish species than waters like the Caribbean, but offers the chance to discover marine life found nowhere else on earth. One of the most popular dives in the world occurs off the island of Kona, the manta ray night dive. Divers descend into the darkness while giant manta rays swim overhead, most describe it is as truly magical. Diving off Lana’I is popular amongst those looking to discover new fish and rare invertebrates while Moloka’i offers divers the chance to catch a glimpse of the rare Hawaiian monk seal and hammerhead sharks. Kaua’i is home to an abundance of collapsed lava tubes and huge green sea turtles that aren’t afraid to get their pictures taken. Divers who are in the water from December to April may be able to hear the song of the humpback whales as they migrate through these waters.

Kauai Sea Turtle

8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is so large that one can actually see it from space and has been known over the years for being one of the world’s most premier diving spots. It stretches 1,430 miles along Australia’s northeastern coast and offers over 4,000 separate reefs, cays and islands. It could truly take more than a lifetime to explore this entire reef which features over 1,500 species of fish and shipwrecks. It is the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef system that teams with biodiversity and an array of species you won’t find anywhere else. Divers here will come face to face with large sea turtles, reef sharks, sea snakes, barracudas and dolphins. The size and variety of this reef makes it perfect for any type of diver and visitors won’t be hard pressed to find an operator in one of the many seaside towns.

Great Barrier Reef

7. The French Polynesian Islands

It has long been known as a destination for honeymooners and other species of lovebirds, but besides the gorgeous white sand beaches over the water bungalows and framed palm trees lays a world to discover under the water. There are over 118 islands and atolls throughout this vast area and with 11 of them offering diving centers; it is easy to be overwhelmed with choices on where to dive. Fortunately there is an array of varied dives, from the shallow lagoons for beginners to the drop-offs and passes for the advanced divers. Moorea Island is also known as ‘Shark World’ and is famous for its hand-fed shark and stingray dives. The atoll Rangiroa is also known for both its calm lagoon that teems with marine life and it’s thrilling passes that feature sharks, big fish species and turtles. These waters explode with colorful coral, fish, sharks and other marine species that proudly show themselves off. No matter where you dive, this promises to be unforgettable.

Diving French Polynesia

6. Roatan and The Bay Islands, Honduras

This popular diving spot has been attracting divers for decades as it feature amazing shipwrecks and endless colorful coral. It is here that the world’s second largest barrier reef is located and divers will be privy to swimming with eagle rays, schools of colorful fish and the all mighty whale sharks. Utila is where divers will head if they want to swim with these majestic creatures and it is one of the only places year round that the whale sharks can be seen. This destination is inclusive for all levels of divers and whether you are just getting your feet wet, or you have been diving for years, there is an experience here for you unlike anywhere else in the world.

Whale Sharks -Honduras

5. Malaysia

It is blessed with some of the richest waters and diving here offers experiences unlike any other in the world. Sipadan, the little island off the east coast of Borneo is what most divers come to experience. It lies in one of the richest marine habitats in the world and boasts an extremely high number of turtles, grey and whitetip reef sharks, and large schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda and trevally. Layang-Layang is another reason to dive in these waters as this little speck of an atoll is fringed by some of the best coral fields in the world along with its huge schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Where you want to dive and what you want to see will determine the best time of year to visit these waters as different seasons bring different water conditions.

Diving in Sipadan

4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

It is where Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, a place where countless mammals, reptiles and birds thrive and its waters are some of the most pristine areas left to dive in this world. These waters work best for experienced divers as currents are strong and conditions are often choppy. The tiny Darwin Island is an excellent choice for divers as the waters are full of fur seals, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, marine iguanas and schools of sharks. Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos is home to penguins that shoot by you, sea lions, sea turtles, and a challenging underwater volcano that is swarming with Galapagos sharks, along with schools of hammerheads and barracudas. July to November is when divers choose to head here as the sharks tend to be the most active and plentiful. These waters deserve at least two weeks to explore and promise to surprise you at every twist and turn.

Diving Galapgos Islands

3. Turks and Caicos

It boasts some of the clearest water in the world and with so many islands that are uninhabited; it makes for a perfect place to escape the crowds of the Caribbean. Turks and Caicos is not only known for its brilliant turquoise water but also for its incredible wall diving. It is here you will dive into the world’s third largest coral reef system and find drops that plunge hundreds of feet into the deep. The Columbus Passage, a 35-kilometer channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands is a water highway for migrating fish, rays, turtles, dolphins and Humpback whales from January through March. With incredibly calm waters and an abundance of marine life, every dive here promises to be thrilling.

Turks and Caicos

2. Belize

Belize is most widely known for its famous dive spot the Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that descends over 400 feet. To dive the Blue Hole it is recommend that you are an experienced diver and you are well prepared for this magical experience. The Blue Hole doesn’t teem with colorful fish or coral; in fact the only marine life you might see deep in the depths of this hole is a hammerhead or reef shark. Instead you will dive into an ancient geographical phenomena complete with an array of limestone formations and bizarre stalactites. If you want colorful fish and coral, Belize offers plenty of that along the reef and is home to many species of sharks, rays, barracudas and many species of fish. Belize is known as a destination for the more adventurous divers and you will certainly benefit if you have some experience under your belt before you travel to this country.

Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com
Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com

1. The Red Sea, Egypt

For many people, Egypt is known for its incredible above the water attractions and although one should not discount the ancient monuments and pyramids, it is below the water that is the real jewel of the country. Divers here are privy to hundreds of miles of coral, millions of fish, warm water, great visibility, sheltered reefs, walls, coral gardens and wrecks. This destination is also known for having an excellent availability of instructors which makes the Red Sea a perfect spot for learning how to dive. Drift dives are quite common in the Red Sea due to currents as are night dives amongst towering coral and schools of fish. Whale sharks, moray eels, barracudas and tuna are all spotted throughout these waters. The warm water temperature year round makes diving here at anytime an unforgettable experience.

Diving Red Sea, Egypt

Top 10 Destinations for Family Adventure Travel this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to travel, take vacation and explore new parts of the world. Traveling as a family, most people tend to stick to familiar destinations, campgrounds and all-inclusive cruises or resorts where everything is taken care of. But if you are a family that is looking for a little more flexibility, more adventure, plenty of thrills and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; we highly suggest checking out these top 10 destinations for family adventure travel.

10. Glacier National Park, Montana

If you are looking to stick within North America this summer but are still looking for an outdoor adventure for the whole family, Glacier National Park in Montana should be at the top of your list. There are lodges and campgrounds throughout the park with plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking, horseback riding and swimming. This national park features a dozen glacier peaks that are separated by clear mountain streams, pristine lakes and plenty of waterfalls to discover. Kids and adults alike will love looking out for the abundance of wildlife including deer, moose and mountain goats.  If you are looking for a more guided and organized adventure there are plenty of tour guides that offer family specific trips throughout the park, complete with adults-only meals, luxury lodge accommodations and enough activities to keep the kids busy all day long. Get into the heart of the mountains and feel like you are worlds away from home.

Grinnell Glacier - Glacier National Park

9.  Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos are best explored when kids are a little older and can appreciate what they truly have to offer. The best way to discover the islands is a family geared cruise that ensures the whole family will be involved in the fun. These family cruises are often small and intimate, which paves the way for the exceptional customer service that extends to the kids. While snorkeling with the turtles, swimming with the sea lions and watching the penguins swim by are always a hit amongst the whole family, these cruises offer so much more. Connecting with nature at a young age is important to teaching children about the planet and the guides aboard these ships know how to connect with them. Where else in the world can your 10 year old learn to anchor a boat, sleep in a treehouse and swim alongside a curious sea lion all in one day?

Galapagos Islands

8. Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Sand, sand and more sand is what you will find at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and we promise that the kids will absolutely love it here! This giant sandbox provides plenty of opportunity to bring out the kid in anyone as you slide down the hills on either a sled or sand board. This activity is actually legal in the park and sleds and boards can be rented at one of a few retailers in the San Luis Valley. The best time to visit this park is at the beginning of the summer before the dunes become scorching hot. This time of year is also when Medano Creek is flowing and families should bring inflatable tubes to float down it. Hiking, camping, horseback riding, four wheeling and fun ranger-led programs are all activities that families can look forward to here. Whether you travel here just for a day or spend a week camping; families won’t run out of fun and exciting things to do.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

7. New Mexico

If your family is looking for adventure, real cowboys and Indians and exceptional food, New Mexico may just be the perfect vacation destination. Although this destination is widely known for its art galleries, boutique shops and spirituality; there is plenty more to discover if you dig a little deeper. With ranch resorts surrounding the area, families can choose adventures such as horseback riding, watching the Rodeo, fly fishing, rock climbing and white water rafting. One especially unique adventure here is the opportunity to hike and camp in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Rio Grande Gorge area with Wild Earth Llama Adventures. Each member of the family is coupled with its own llama, which carries the gear and creates a great distraction for the little ones who often tire easily of hiking. This camping experience is complete with campfires, gourmet meals and a never ending variety of activities for the kids.

Pecos National Historic Park Santa Fe New Mexico

6. Costa Rica

If you are looking for a thrilling summer vacation that really get’s the whole family’s hearts pumping, Costa Rica is the perfect country to do so. One of the safest, if not the safest country in Central America, traveling here is easy and inexpensive. Trek through an impressive cloud forest, zip line over lush green mountains, hike a volcano and learn to surf in the warm waters. Kids will delight in listening to the howler monkeys in the trees, relaxing in the many hot springs and splashing in the waves. Eco-tourism has taken a big step in this country and there are endless choices for accommodations, whether you want a luxurious treehouse or a laid back hotel. With two major airports to fly into, English speaking guides and a plethora of adventure; Costa Rica is a perfect summer vacation.

Max Herman / Shutterstock.com
Max Herman / Shutterstock.com

5. Canadian Rockies, Alberta

Wildlife, mountain treks, sparkling blue lakes and hot springs are what await families in the Canadian Rockies. If your family loves to hike, mountain bike and swim; there is no better place in Canada to visit for a summer full of adventure and thrills. Many choose to make Banff their home base as it is full of kid-friendly restaurants, hotels that feature pools and waterslides and easy access to the surrounding mountains and lakes. The other option for adventure travel here is a custom designed organized tour, designed with families in mind. There are some exceptional tour operators in this area and from canoeing to white water rafting to cliff jumping to exploring the towns; these trips are perfect for families who want adventure but prefer someone else does the planning.

Canadian Rockies Alberta

4. Grand Canyon and Surrounding Area, Arizona

It would be a mistake to think that kids will be bored exploring the Grand Canyon but it would also be a mistake to assume they will want to spend a week doing so. Therefore to make the most of this adventurous vacation, we suggest splitting your time between the Grand Canyon and the surrounding areas of Page and Sedona. Hiking below the rim in the canyon is highly recommended for avid outdoor enthusiasts and the ranger led hikes are a hit with families as the ranger points out things like fossils in the rock layers, lizards basking in the sun, and desert wildflowers and wildlife. The surrounding areas of Page and Sedona offer outdoor adventures such as exploring Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. Combine that with the smooth water float trip you can take and the kids will have the best outdoor adventure of a lifetime.

Horseshoe Bend

3. Big Island, Hawaii

Animal adventures, outdoor thrills and the chance to sneak in some education is what await families on the Big Island of Hawaii. Start off with a heart-pounding helicopter ride over the island, introducing you to the hidden waterfalls, lava lakes and fiery fresh lava flows. Next up head to one of the many beaches were you can build towering black sand castles, take a family surf lesson and try your hand at stand up paddle boarding. Depending on the swimming levels of the kids, scuba diving and snorkeling are very popular among these warm waters that teem with colorful tropical fish. For an even bigger adventure make sure to try the manta ray night dive. Climb a volcano, zip line through the jungle and pitch your tent in one of the many campgrounds and discover the ultimate summer playground.

Big Island, Hawaii

2. Glacier Bay, Alaska

Say goodbye to overcrowded family cruises and experience the unforgettable landscape of Alaska from your own personal floating base. Tour companies are now offering intimate, family orientated cruises through Glacier Bay; set at your own personal pace. An on-board naturalist is there to teach the entire family about tide pools, the underwater songs of the whales and local botany. Kids will love kayaking to hidden inlets, walking out onto frozen glaciers and hiking through majestic old-growth forests and coming face to face with incredible wildlife such as bears, bald eagles and humpback whales. The best part for parents may just be when the kids conk out and they are privy to the on-board hot tub or an after dark paddle through the sea. Instead of watching the glaciers pass by from a typical ship, why not get adventurous and explore them with a family orientated boat trip.

Glacier Bay, Alaska

1. Zambia Safari, Africa

This is the best adventurous family vacation to take if your family includes active teenagers. Not necessarily recommended for younger children, Zambia Safaris promise high thrills, excellent wildlife spotting and a chance to hike in the national parks; keeping in mind the minimum age to hike through these parks is 12. Visit the unforgettable Victoria Falls, raft in the class 5 rapids of the Zambezi River and come face to face with big game such as hippos and lions. Walking safaris are an amazing way to discover creatures you could never see from a car such as the dung beetle, and still offer luxury accommodations in the heart of the parks. Expect to kayak the lakes, swim in a natural infinity pool, visit a local school and have an experience of a lifetime. Teens love this adventurous vacation as guides do an incredible job of making them feel independent and many companies even offer teen only dinners, hikes and more.

Zambia Safari, Africa

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