Italy is one of Europe’s most diverse countries with an expansive range of sights, cuisine, and landscapes. Knowing which city you should start your trip in is the first hurdle to overcome. Here is a guide to determining which Italian city is best for you for your next – or first – vacation.
Located in the glorious region of Tuscany, Florence stuns with its renaissance architecture, landscaped gardens, and art galleries. Pay a visit to Giardino di Boboli for majestic views over the surrounding hills. The Duomo di Firenze occupies the core of the city while the Ponte Vecchio is an icon and a premier spot for souvenir shopping. Art fans will want to visit the Uffizi Gallery as well as the Accademia Gallery of Florence for the opportunity to see Michelangelo's David.
Best for: Art and culture, slow pace, families
Italy’s electrifying capital city is bursting at the seams with historical attractions including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and Vatican City with its Sistine Chapel. When you’re not busy exploring the sights, the city contains plazas and monuments such as the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain where you can savor a scoop of gelato and soak up the atmosphere. Foodies should spend time exploring the trattorias of Trastevere while the seaside neighborhood of Ostia will delight children and beach lovers.
Best for: History, food, nightlife
Northern Europe’s subregion of Scandinavia constitutes Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This trio of nations has historical, cultural, and linguistic ties yet each retains its unique customs and is governed independently.
All three countries make for an unforgettable vacation whether you visit only one at a time or plan a longer trip to explore all three. Here’s what to know before traveling to Scandinavia.
Where to see the Northern Lights
Spotting the Northern Lights is one of the main motivations behind a visit to Scandinavia. But exactly where in Scandinavia can you see this phenomenon? Your chances are increased away from the light pollution of cities and the further north you travel.
Sweden’s Abisko National Park is the premier destination for the Northern Lights. This is where you will find the Aurora Sky Station, within the Arctic Circle. Kiruna, Porjus, and Jukkasjärvi are three small northern towns where the dawn of the north is visible. The latter is where you will find the iconic Ice Hotel.
Alta, Tromsø, Senja, and the Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway are some of the best places to witness the Aurora Borealis.
Meanwhile, in Denmark, you can visit Kjul Strand, Grenen, Faroe Islands archipelago, Nationalpark Thy, and Samsø for a chance to spot the dancing skies.
We’re all familiar with the major national parks in the US, such as Death Valley, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion. However, there are lesser-known parks that it pays to add to your radar if you want to avoid the crowds. Here are 5 off the beaten path national parks to add to your wishlist this season.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
This conifer-clad realm of mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, and startling blue lakes is located 107 miles northeast of Seattle.
N Cascades Highway follows the course of the Skagit River and ensures a scenic drive at all times of the year. Activities to enjoy in the North Cascades National Park, Washington, include hiking, rafting, fishing, and wildlife watching.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
The Congaree National Park, South Carolina, is sited 18 miles southeast of Columbia. This park is one for dendrophiles; this green wonderland preserves the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the country.
Channels from the Congaree and Wateree rivers carry nutrients and sediments that nourish the ecosystem and local wildlife while supporting the conservation efforts.
As the vast majority of the park occupies a floodplain, the terrain is typically flat with only slight elevation changes. Canoeing and kayaking are another popular way of getting around.
Southern France is abundant with historic cities, beach resorts, and wineries. When planning a trip to this region, you can visit the most beautiful towns in Southeast France and head westwards towards the Spanish border. Here’s what you need to know about the Toulouse to Montpellier region.
Toulouse is the capital of the Occitanie region and is known as “La Ville Rose” due to its pink buildings. Hôtel d’Assézat and Basilique Notre Dame la Daurad are two of the most splendid buildings to visit if you want to appreciate the wonderful architecture as a result of the terracotta.
France’s fourth-largest city is also the aeronautical capital of Europe. One of the most unique attractions is the Cité de l’Espace – a theme park dedicated to space exploration with life-size replicas of rockets and space stations.
Warm summer days may be spent navigating the River Garonne and exploring the city’s vast parks.
Located halfway between Toulouse and Montpellier, Carcassonne is a romantic hilltop town with a mediaeval citadel that remains in excellent condition with fortified walls and turrets.
The foundations of La Cité de Carcassonne were constructed in Gallo-Roman times, with expansions made in the 13th and 14th centuries. You can explore the labyrinthine streets and tour the Château Comtal and museums for further understanding of the history of the citadel
It doesn't matter if you're a couple who loves to go on adventures or kick back and relax; there are Insta-worthy destinations that'll keep those romantic fires smoldering. That could mean sand, sparkling water, and soaking in the sun. That could also mean exploring vibrant cityscapes brimming with cultural and historical adventures. You and your significant other can find the best spots for proposals, honeymoons, and getaways in the following list.
After landing in Grand Cayman's newly improved airport, you'll hear the sound of steel drums welcoming. Then, check out the area's luxury hotels for days of relaxation, sipping Pina Coladas, and romantic boat rides. Legends say that you'll have seven years of good luck if you kiss one of the area's stingrays!
Koh Samui, Thailand
Thailand's second-largest island is home to exotic white beaches, groves of coconut trees, and lush forests. Visiting the Gulf of Thailand means having your pick of posh resorts, including some that greet you with delicious scoops of coconut ice cream when you arrive. You'll love the array of activities, including taking cooking classes together or practicing Tai Chi on the beach.
Alaska’s Inside Passage is a scenic cruise route that weaves its way through fjords, forests, glaciers, and picturesque towns. There is a multitude of reasons why this is one of the most popular routes to travel in the state and you’re about to hear all about them.
Let’s run through the best things to see on Alaska's Inside Passage.
Due to its prominent position at the southern tip of Alaska’s Inside Passage, Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s first city. The city features an ample display of totem poles which you can view while exploring the town on foot. The Misty Fiords National Monument – a short transit from town and typically included in your cruise itinerary – is awash with scenes of glacial-carved valleys and snow-capped peaks. Grizzly and black bears, deer, and salmon thrive in this park.
Juneau, Alaska’s capital, sits atop a series of inter-coastal waterways within the Tongass National Forest. The city offers easy access to Alaska’s glaciers and is a prime location for wildlife-watching endeavors. Downtown Juneau features an abundance of boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. All of the Alaska Inside Passage cruises include time to explore the city and pick up any souvenirs.
With ferries connecting bustling Vancouver with the wilderness of Vancouver Island in less than two hours, these two destinations can be visited as part of the same trip. While it is possible to take a day trip to Vancouver Island, you may feel pressed for time. Splitting your vacation across the two is the perfect solution.
Vancouver is the most ethnically diverse city in Canada. You can explore historic and modern art at the Vancouver Art Gallery, where special attention is paid to the achievements of First Nations artists. On the other hand, the UBC Museum of Anthropology displays preeminent First Nations artworks, sculptures, and artifacts.
Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island, is not without its share of museums and galleries. The Royal BC Museum explores natural and human history through its three permanent galleries: Natural History, Becoming BC, and the First Peoples Gallery.
Greek island hopping is a trip of a lifetime for travelers who appreciate excellent food, sandy beaches, and rich cultural history. Where to start if you can only visit one? The following Greek islands are perfect for first-time visitors as a sole destination or as part of an island hopping itinerary. You’ll see that each isle is characterized by its own unique offering.
Milos – Best for Beaches
Milos is located within the Cyclades group of Greek islands. Both the Venus de Milo and the Asclepius of Milos were discovered on this horseshoe-shaped island. Milos consists of volcanic hinterland fringed with white sandy beaches and crystal-clear aquamarine water.
There are around 70 beaches and swimming coves in total, surrounded by dramatic white cliffs that have been molded by waves and wind. Some, such as Sarakiniko Beach, almost resemble the craters of the moon. This beach along with Firopotamos and Pollonia is just a selection of what awaits you on this glorious Greek island for beach lovers.
Its principal town, Plaka, is perched high above the island and provides incredible panoramic views. The town features the iconic whitewashed buildings of Greece and benefits from sublime sunsets.
Often overshadowed by its southern coastline, mountainous Northern Spain is alive with greenery and gastronomy. Coastal cities fuse old and new while catering to travelers seeking a mix of culture with glorious seascapes. Beyond the coast, a network of vineyards is responsible for crafting some of the best Spanish wines. Add the northern coast of Spain to your radar and explore the following areas.
Straddling its namesake estuary, Bilbao is the largest city in Basque Country. This handsome city is a blend of modern skyscrapers alongside historic plazas and churches and the winding streets of Old Town. Home to the Guggenheim Museum and the Fine Arts Museum, Bilbao is one of the best destinations in Spain for art lovers. Furthermore, innumerable sculptures stud the streets. Visit the Azkuna Zentroa – a modernist cultural center with visual and performance art exhibitions housed within a former wine exchange.
An easy day trip from Bilbao, La Rioja is a province located at the base of the Cantabrian Mountains that is known for its wine production. Vineyards are scattered across the Ebro and Duero River Valleys with Haro and Logroño towns providing an excellent base to start your wine tour. This area claims credit for Spain’s noteworthy Tempranillo wines, full-bodied with a fruity finish.
In Central and Eastern Europe, you will find some of the most spectacular landscapes, architecture—castles, churches, and war memorials—as well as some of the most colorful, inviting cultures in the world. But what's the best way to see it all? An AmaWaterways cruise down the Danube River, of course.
The journey begins with a guided tour through the beautiful medieval city of Nuremberg, where you'll see the Imperial Castle, the famous town wall, and the Market Square's legendary fountain. There's a guided tour of the city's most significant WWII sites for history buffs, including the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds and the Nuremberg Trials Memoriam and Courtroom 600 (if the courtroom is not in session).
Next, you can savor traditional Franconian specialties including Nuremburger bratwurst, rotbier (red beer) and lebkuchen (gingerbread). While en route to the next destination, Regensburg, you'll cruise through the man-made Main-Danube Canal.
In Regensburg, you'll be treated to a guided walking tour through one of Germany's best-preserved medieval cities. In Regensburg, you'll see all the city's architectural highlights, including the Old Town Hall and the Porta Praetoria. And if all that walking makes you hungry, there are the old Bavarian specialties to satisfy you—beer, sausage, and pretzels.
Next, take a bike tour to Walhalla, where you will see the neoclassical white marble temple inspired by the Parthenon in Athens.
The journey continues as you cruise to lower Bavaria's city of Passau, where you'll enjoy a walking tour along cobblestone streets and see Gothic and Italian Baroque architecture and St. Stephen's Cathedral. Then, if you're looking to work in a bit of exercise, choose between a guided bike tour along the Danube or a guided hike up to the Veste Oberhaus Fortress.
Recreating dishes you’ve tried on vacation is an immersive way to experience the joy of travel in the comfort of your own home. Get creative and try your hand at these two easy European recipes at home.
French Onion Soup
French onion soup is a decadent starter that is far easier to produce than you might think. The soup has anti-inflammatory properties while the generous topping of Swiss cheese makes it moreish.
Here is an easy-to-follow recipe for French onion soup that will provide four servings.
The diverse continent of Europe is a place of ancient cities, diverse cuisine and wines, and phenomenal accommodation opportunities. When you are seeking a luxurious vacation, you can trust Europe to deliver an exceptional experience suitable for a special occasion.
These are the five most luxurious destinations for a weekend (or longer) in Europe.
Romantic Italy with its rich history, gourmet dining scene, fashionable cities, and swanky islands speaks of luxury and experiences to treasure forever. Foodies should head straight to Tuscany for a weekend of food, wine, and prestigious art galleries. Travelers who love sunshine and seafood can head south to the Amalfi Coast and Bay of Naples. The Isle of Capri wows with its grottos and picturesque plazas where you can linger over aperitifs. Charter a yacht for a premier experience.
Choose between a weekend touring the landmarks in Paris or retreating to the glorious French countryside for a sophisticated yet rustic experience. It goes without saying that the wine regions of Burgundy and Provence are stellar destinations for a luxury stay. Check yourself into a chateau and spend days discovering your favorite vintages and cafès. Meanwhile, the South of France province dazzles with its historic seaside towns, lavender fields, and grand palaces.
As one of our most biodiverse countries, Costa Rica is one of the best destinations for wildlife watching. Approximately a quarter of the Central American nation consists of protected jungle that provides a safe habitat for birds, mammals, and reptiles. What’s more, Costa Rica rates highly in terms of sustainability and eco-initiatives.
What wildlife can you see in Costa Rica and where?
Costa Rica is home to over 500,000 species of wild animals. With 30 national parks in total – where do you start?
There are around 900 varieties of birds in Costa Rica. Six species of toucan reside in Costa Rica’s jungles. The keel-billed variety is the variety you are most likely to recognize, with their multi-colored beaks and necks. You may spot flocks of toucans in the foliage dining on tropical fruit, seeds, and insects.
50 species of hummingbird live in Costa Rica, representing all the colors of the rainbow. These are commonly sighted – beating their wings at the speed of lightning in the vast rainforests.
Other examples of birdlife include robins, macaws, resplendent quetzals, and pelicans.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest ranks at the top of the list for birdwatchers and flora enthusiasts. 10% of the plants found in the reserve cannot be seen anywhere else on the planet. Accessible via boat or plane, Tortuguero National Park contains eleven different types of habitat and is another leading destination for birdlife as well as turtles.
A journey on the Mekong River is a trip you will never forget. This vast Asian waterway crosses through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The majority of live-aboard cruises focus on the Cambodian and Southern Vietnam sections. Here are 10 things to know before your journey on the Mekong River.
1. Expect diverse experiences and sights: Your journey may well start in the hip metropolis of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) but you’ll soon encounter an entirely different rhythm as your ship glides through rural villages, floating markets, and traditional workshops. Meanwhile, Buddhist temples provide the chance to connect with the region’s spiritual beliefs.
2. Consider extending your trip: While you’re in this part of the world, you are encouraged to see as much of the region as possible. For example, you might want to tap on a couple of days to explore the Temples of Angkor Archaeological Site. As well as being the gateway to the temples, the small Cambodian town of Siem Reap is a fantastic place to find your feet in Southeast Asia. You could also seize the opportunity to visit Ha Long Bay.
3. Dress appropriately: A major highlight of your journey on the Mekong River is the opportunity to visit temples along the route. Pack modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. A sarong is a handy addition to your luggage that you can throw over your shoulders or wrap around your legs.
4. Brush up on the etiquette: Honoring the local customs goes a long way during your Mekong River cruise. When passing an item, always present it with both hands. Haggling at the markets is cultural but it’s important to haggle with consideration and not cause offense. And never point your feet towards an image of Buddha.
Boutique hotels represent smaller properties with upscale accommodations and personalized service. Most boutique hotels have 10 to 100 rooms to allow a comfortable, intimate experience as an alternative to a regular chain hotel.
These customized hotels offer specific aesthetics tailored to their location. Allowing the guests to feel more in a vacation trance mindset and attain exceptional customer service. The owners can also change interiors and upgrade different amenities to their liking.
The term boutique initially surfaced in the 1980s when a hotel in New York City had been compared to visiting a boutique retail store. For most guests, these unique one of a kind stays is a destination within a destination as they are provided with that certain eloquent ambiance. The space is usually very community-oriented with local neighboring markets and shops adjacent to the hotels.
Extraordinary trips for exceptional travelers, where the details make all the difference
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