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The Best Luxury Hotels Around the World

luxury hotel interior

If you are planning on taking a trip this year, why not splurge a bit and treat yourself to something a little extra special?

From France to Indonesia, here are some of the top luxury hotels in the world, each one worth considering for your 2018 vacation.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Cote d’Azur, France

The Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc is a 19th-century mansion that boasts 117 rooms, as well as two villas. The ambience here is a grand one, reminiscent of the F Scott Fitzgerald era, with extravagant historic furnishings throughout the hotel.

Wondering what there is to do here?

To begin with, the hotel is set within nine acres of gardens, among which you will find five clay tennis courts, a seawater pool and a spa. The restaurant is also a highlight, serving up traditional French classics, while the grill by the seafront pavilion serves up lighter, more casual fare, with a focus on fresh seafood.

For those who enjoy an adrenaline rush…

You will love the diving board that juts out over the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the trapeze that sits over the water.

Need a bit of extra privacy?

There are 33 beach cabins that you can choose from, and these have housed quite a few notable names in the past, from Roger Moore to Marc Chagall. 

D-Maris Bay, Turquoise Coast, Turkey

Located in an untouched nature reserve on Turkey’s stunning Turquoise Coast, D-Maris Bay is a resort that enjoys some truly spectacular surroundings. With dramatic volcanic rocks all around, and lush hillsides dotted with almond trees, this hotel is set within so much natural beauty.

Of course, the Aegean and Mediterranean views from the hotel are one of its highlights, and a top tip is to request a harbor-facing room, so that you can enjoy the view at all times.

The resort makes the most of all of this water, offering its guests a number of different watersport opportunities, from kayaking to diving.

Want to admire the water from afar?

There are five beaches from which you can do so, as well as a beautiful spa for when you need some indoor time.

Six dining options means that there will always be something new to try, including an outpost of Zuma, a famed Japanese restaurant in London.

Want to make sure that you arrive in style?

Well, instead of taking the two hour drive to the resort from Dalaman Airport, ask the hotel to book you in for a helicopter transfer, which will have you there in less than half an hour.

Nihi Sumba Island, Sumba, Indonesia

Mandorak Beach, Indonesia

Many would consider Nihi Sumba Island to be a reflection of true paradise. Formerly a surf lodge, this hotel was transformed a few years ago, turning it into what many would agree to be the best hotel in the world.

This resort is still quite the hidden gem, as so many have no idea that it even exists…

The island itself is quite a hard-to-reach, isolated one, located about 300 kilometers east of Bali, with a population of around 65,000. The resort is the only one on the island, and most of the staff there are from the island itself, creating quite an intimate feel.

So, other than its stunning natural surroundings, what else makes this hotel so great?

Here are just a few of its highlights:

  • A treetop spa
  • Villas with private infinity pools
  • Outdoor jungle showers   
  • A professional equestrian center
  • World-class surfing instructors
  • A beach club with a lap pool
  • An on-site chocolate factory
  • Personalized itineraries for the duration of your stay

Still not convinced?

Well, to make it all even better, this luxury resort is actually completely eco-friendly. An example of this is with their food – vegetables are grown in an organic garden, while chicken comes from the resort’s own chicken farm, and seafood is caught directly off the coast by the hotel.

Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania, Africa

The Singita Sabora Tented Camp can be found in a private game reserve that sprawls out for over 350,000 acres.

While you may not think that a tent in a camp is very luxurious, Singita Sabora will prove you wrong.

How?

Because its nine lavish tents, which are sat on wooden decks, will make you feel as though you are on the Out of Africa film set. With everything from wooden four-poster beds to silver mirrors and mahogany carvings, the tents are about as grand as they get.

As beautiful as the days may be here, guests always tend to look forward to the nights.

One reason for this is because of the night sky, with the Milky Way twinkling so brightly above.

Since the camp is located within a private reserve, this also gives you so much more flexibility when it comes to activities after dark. One popular night time activity is taking a drive through the reserve to look for leopards hunting their prey.

Wondering when to visit?

Try timing your visit for the Great Migration, which takes place during June and July. This is when the wildebeest migrate, and thousands of these animals stop by at the camp, with many even choosing to spend a day or two here. For animal lovers, this is really an experience unlike any other. 

Alila Fort Bishangarh, Rajasthan, India

Located in the scenic village of Bishangarh, the Alila Fort is actually a fortress that dates back over 230 years ago.

This is a great hotel for history buffs, as the fortress structure has been left pretty much intact. Everything from its looming turrets to its granite dungeon can still be seen, although they do now have a few luxury touches added to them, such as the decadent spa in the dungeon. 

Curious about the hotel’s amenities?

Here are a few to get excited about:

  • The library
  • The cigar lounge
  • The pool veranda and terrace
  • The dungeon spa that has been cut out of granite
  • Speciality restaurants

This hotel has only been open for a year, making it still quite the newcomer in the industry. However, its dedication to luxury has already earned it a fantastic reputation, and while it may boast 59 luxury suites, this is a hotel that you will definitely need to book in advance for.

The Plaza, New York City, USA

The Plaza, New York

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Unlike many of the other hotels on this list, The Plaza is one that you have likely already heard about countless times.

How?

Because this hotel has starred in so many different movies and books over the years. From Eloise to The Princess Diaries, and even to the 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, The Plaza is truly iconic when it comes to pop culture.

This landmark hotel was originally built in 1907, and then designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1969.

New York is one of the finest cities to visit, with so much to see and do, and staying at this hotel will make your vacation all the more memorable. 

Of course, a hotel this grand has some fantastic amenities:

  • Shops at The Plaza
  • The Guerlain Spa
  • A fitness center
  • A beauty salon
  • A gym
  • Eateries that include The Palm Court, the Champagne Bar, the Rose Club, the Todd English Food Hall, and the Plaza Food Hall 

Want to really splash out?

Stay at one of the hotel’s suites, which also means that you are able to enjoy 24 hour butler service.

The Peninsula Shanghai, Shanghai, China

Shanghai is home to so many luxury hotels, but The Peninsula Shanghai is one that really stands out.

Why?

For a number of reasons:

  • Art-deco design details
  • An on-site Chanel showroom
  • Bedrooms that overlook the Huangpu River
  • Remote controlled tripe-choice curtains in the bedrooms
  • Large private dressing rooms with unique amenities, such as nail polish blow driers
  • Michelin-starred restaurants
  • A heated pool
  • A spa and fitness suite

This may all sound great, but regulars actually return for a completely different reason…

This is the hotel’s service, which is truly second-to-none. No matter what you need, the hotel’s concierge will be able to provide it, whether this may be a reservation at a hard-to-book restaurant, or a taxi on a rainy day when half the city seems to be struggling to find a cab.

The Oberoi Beach Resort, Dubai, UAE

With all of the city’s traffic, driving through Dubai can be a nightmare, so frequent flyers will be happy to know that the Oberoi Beach Resort is just a half hour drive from Dubai International Airport.

As you pass by the high rises all around you, you will soon enter into the Al Zorah Nature Reserve, which is paradisical with its crystal blue lagoons, white sandy beaches and mangroves bursting with life.

Wondering what this nature reserve has to do with the hotel?

The hotel is actually located within the nature reserve, offering up an ambience so unlike the majority of other hotels in Dubai. It makes the most of its surroundings, with its design being quite minimalistic, featuring interconnected buildings dotted with water pools.

While this may be an eco-friendly resort, it still offers up a range of luxury amenities:

  • Temperature-controlled private plunge pools in its villas
  • Two restaurant
  • A spa that features traditional Turkish baths
  • A poolside health bar, complete with a lounge area

Of course, when you want to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city, you are not too far away. Dubai has so much to experience, and this is a city that you will likely want to return to time and time again. 

Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

As you can tell from its name, the Atlantis Paradise Island resort is a tribute to the lost city of Atlantis. While this may be the case, it has definitely made its own name for itself, with many agreeing that this is the finest resort in all of the Caribbean. 

There are a number of different accommodation options here, from the Royal Suites, which was ranked as the most expensive hotel in the world in 2002, to the Harborside Resort, with 392 villas, to the Cove Atlantis, with 600 suites in its tower.

All of these different accommodation options are built around Aquaventure, which is a waterscape that stretches out for over 140 acres.

Here, you will find a number of water-related attractions, including:

  • Fresh water and saltwater lagoons
  • A predator lagoon, with sharks, sawfishes and more
  • A children’s Mayan-themed play area and pool
  • Power Tower, which boasts four water slides
  • The Rapid River, which is a mile long water ride
  • Water roller coasters

If all of that was not enough, Atlantis Paradise Island also has its very own 18-hole golf club, as well as a marina that is capable of docking large yachts. A shopping center is also on-site, as are a number of different restaurants, cafés and bars.

Berkeley River Lodge, The Kimberley, Western Australia

The Kimberley is a region in Western Australia, and while it may be more than double the size of the UK, stretching out for thousands of square kilometers, it has a population of less than 40,000. 

Yes, this is one of the emptiest places on Earth

So, why would you want to go here?

Because of the Berkeley River Lodge, a wilderness lodge that is so isolated that guests can only reach it via helicopter, air taxi or a private yacht.

The lodge boasts 20 smart villas, each one floating on the coastal dune that fronts the hotel.

All of the bathrooms at this lodge are outdoors, which may put some off, but have been done up beautifully, giving you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy a long shower with the tropical sun above you.

All of the villas have water views, whether this may be of the Berkeley River or the Timor Sea.

However, while you may be tempted to take a dive off your porch to explore the water, this is not advised.

Why?

Because the sea here is home to a large population of bull sharks and crocodiles.

This does not mean that you cannot make the most of the water though, as there are plenty of guided boat excursions that you can choose from, as well as natural swimming holes to take a dip in.

While Asia may be synonymous with tropical beaches and colorful coral reefs, there is so much more to the continent than this. From soaring mountains to bamboo forests, here are some of the top natural wonders that Asia has to offer.

The Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan

Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan

Chances are that you have already seen numerous photographs of Kyoto’s Bamboo Forest, as many would agree that this is one of the most beautiful forests in the world.

Located just thirty minutes outside of the heart of the city, the forest provides a shocking contrast to the urban environment all around it.

What can you expect to see?

Tall bamboo stalks soaring dozens of feet into the sky, packed together incredibly densely. There are wooden paths that twist their way through these groves, so you can explore the forest comfortably at your own pace.

But that isn’t even the best part…

When the wind passes through the tightly packed trunks, making the wood creak and the leaves rustle, the sound that is created is so incredibly peaceful.

Even Japan’s Ministry of the Environment would agree with this, including the forest in the list of 100 Soundscapes of Japan, acknowledging the meditative effect that this sound can have. 

K2, Pakistan

Just like Mount Everest, K2, which is also known as Mount Godwin-Austen, is also located in the Himalayas, but this time on Pakistan’s side of the border.

Standing at 28,251 feet above sea level, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, and is actually considered to be far more dangerous than Everest. With a number of different climbers having fallen to their deaths here, K2 has earned itself the nickname of Savage Mountain.

So, why exactly would you want to give this mountain a climb?

Well, to begin with, it is known for having some of the most incredible views in the world.

It has also only been scaled just over 850 times, compared to Everest, which has been climbed over twice that amount. If you want to take on one of the toughest mountains in the world, but prefer to take a path less travelled, then K2 is the one for you.

Mount Everest, Nepal

Of course, if K2 gets a mention, then Mount Everest should as well.

While there may be no denying that Everest is the highest mountain in the world, many people have argued for decades over its actual height, although it is believed to be around 29,028 feet tall.

Everest is actually located on the border of Nepal, China and Tibet, and is a mountain that is over 60 million years old. It is also contained within the Sagarmatha National Park, which is home to three of the seven highest mountains in the world, as well as many other prominent peaks that exceed 6000 meters in height.

Tempted to give Everest a climb?

There are 18 different climbing routes to choose from, with the journey taking about 40 days in total. But, as you can imagine, there is so much training that needs to go into this expedition beforehand. This usually takes at least a year, so long as you have a solid fitness level to build up from. Nevertheless, even if you only pay a visit to base camp, this will still be one of the most rewarding destinations you will ever visit. 

Ijen Volcano Complex, Indonesia

Ijen Volcano Complex, Indonesia

Located in East Java, the Ijen Volcano Complex consists of a collection of stratovolcanoes, which are all located inside a large volcano crater, referred to as a caldera.

So what makes this complex so special?

A couple of different things…

The first is the Ijen Volcano itself, which boasts the largest acidic crater lake in the world. Due to this high level of acidity, the water within the lake is a surreal milky blue, and while you may want to stand around admiring it for a while, the strong smell of sulphur will likely chase you away quite quickly.

Another unique feature of this complex can be found in the Ijen crater. Due to the continuous combustion of sulphuric gases, the crater itself grows an eerie shade of blue.

When gasses emerge from the volcano, they do so at an extremely high temperature and pressure. This means that when they come into contact with the air, they ignite, sending burning blue flames five feet into the air.

What makes this even better is…

As the flames continue to burn, the gasses condense into liquid sulphur, and begin to flow down the slopes of the volcano, giving off the illusion of blue lava.

Son Doong Cave, Vietnam

The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam was only discovered in 1991. Considering that this is the largest cave in the world, this is quite surprising, but, nevertheless, it has recently opened up to the public, meaning that you can now visit this natural wonder that was hidden for so long. 

The cave’s name means Mountain River Cave, due to its proximity to a river, and the fact that the cave itself was created by water eroding through the limestone, creating a large tunnel.

This tunnel continued to expand over the years, resulting in caverns that are now large enough to fit an entire city street in.

Being over 150 meters in height, and 200 meters in width, the cave was believed to have been created up to five million years ago, and even has its own river, as well as a forest that grows within the middle chamber.

Taman Negara, Malaysia

With over 130 million years of history behind it, Taman Negara is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world.

Covering an area of around 4343 square meters, this national park is one of the country’s biggest attractions, and for good reason too.

There are many ways in which you can explore the rainforest, as well as numerous routes that you can take, but the most famous canopy walkway, which also happens to be the longest of its kind in the world, is located 45 meters up in the canopy, and will provide you with views that you will never forget.

Of course, being one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, Taman Negara can get quite crowded, even with its large size.

That being said, heading to the park early will enable you to avoid most of the crowds, especially if you are heading to Lubok Simpon, which is the local wild swimming spot.

Jigoku Valley, Japan

Japan is famous for its thermal hot springs, also known as onsens, and while these can be found all over the country, one must-see area is the Jigoku Valley.

Why?

Because this region has really embraced all of the hot springs that can be found around it, setting up boardwalks that allow people to leisurely meander through the many geysers and steam caves.

There is so much to see, with each onsen having its properties when it comes to healing. While it is worth taking a dip in all of them, make sure that you do not miss out on the Oyunuma Brook, which is a natural foot bath that you will find in the area.

Huanglong, China

Huanglong, China

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, the Huanglong National Scenic and Historic Interest Area can be found in the Sichuan region of China. 

The landscape here is quite a unique one, with one of the highlights being the colorful calcite terraced pools found all around.

The area also boasts a diverse forest ecosystem, with a number of different habitats that provide homes for endangered animals, as well as plants. One example of this is the giant panda, which calls this region its home. These forest ecosystems are relatively undisturbed, giving you the perfect opportunity to really soak up some nature.

In addition to the terraced pools and the forests, you will also find snow-capped mountains, hot springs and waterfalls, as well as various temples and statues scattered around the area.

The Maldives

Located in the Indian Ocean, just south west of India and Sri Lanka, the Maldives consists of over 1000 islands, as well as 26 atolls, and is famous for being one of the top vacation destinations in the world.

Why?

Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • The Maldives is what many would consider to be the true definition of paradise. With pristine white sand that you have all to yourself, and remote islands that seem so incredibly pure, the Maldives really is a tropical haven
  • Tropical temperatures throughout the year
  • Some of the most vibrant marine life in the world, with world-class diving destinations as well as a submarine that offers reef tours
  • With just one resort allowed per island in the Maldives, each one offers the utmost in luxury and decadence, ensuring that each and every guest is well and truly pampered
  • The local culture is one worth soaking up, as it consists of an eclectic mix of South Indian, Arab and Sinhalese influences
  • The food that you will eat in the Maldives is quite international, but will always be vibrant and tasty

Zhangjiaje, China

The Natural Forest Park of Zhangjiaje, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in China is one that you will have likely already seen photos of. If you have not, then you will probably recognize it from the movie Avatar.

Why?

Because these surreal rock formations are what provided the inspiration for the one-of-a-kind landscapes of Pandora.

In fact, in honor of the movie, one of the rock formations has even been renamed as Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

So, enough about the movie, what exactly are these rock formations?

They are basically quartzite sandstone columns, with many of them being over 200 meters in height. There are thousands of these columns, 3544 to be precise, as well as a number of caves that are filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

The pillars themselves formed over thousands of years, due to erosion and water that expanded and contracted in the crevices of the rocks.

Kampung Kuantan, Malaysia

The village of Kuantan, in Malaysia, is not only known for its sandy beaches and turquoise waters, but is also famous for another natural wonder, this time involving the animal kingdom…

Each night, the sky lights up with thousands of fireflies, who gather in the mangrove trees to feed and attract a mate.

Sound intriguing?

The best way to really experience this natural wonder is to take a boat ride, which can be chartered at the town’s jetty. Each boat holds four passengers, meaning that you can tailor the ride to be as long as you want.

However, keep in mind that photographing the fireflies with a flash camera is prohibited, n order to protect them.

The Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Gobi Desert, Mongolia

The Gobi Desert stretches across most of the south of Mongolia, as well as its border with China, and is definitely a destination for your bucket list.

This is the largest desert in Asia,  covering an arc-shaped area of land that measures around 1.3 million square kilometers.

There are a number of different ecosystems within the dessert, from grasslands to mountains, and, because it sits at quite a high altitude, is actually quite a cold desert, with snow falling on the sand dunes in the winter.

While you may think that the entire desert is filled with sand, only 5% of the Gobi desert contains sand dunes. The rest consists of rock or dry grasslands.

Wondering what there is to do here?

Quite a few things:

  • Spend a night in a ger, otherwise known as a Mongolian yurt. They are spacious, warm and comfortable tents that will give you a glimpse into the life of Mongolian nomads
  • Climb the Khongor sand dunes, which are the largest in the world
  • Take a ride on a camel
  • Pay a visit to Bayanzag, which was excavated in 1922 and is famous for being one of the places in the world where dinosaur bones, fossils and eggs were found

Architecture has been a part of human life ever since man first realized that he would need a shelter. Since then, architecture has come on leaps and bounds, with some truly extraordinary examples to be found around the world that really push design boundaries.

The Taj Mahal, India

Taj Mahal, India

In 1631, the favorite wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan died while giving birth, leaving her husband devastated. In honor of his beloved wife, the emperor commissioned the creation of the Taj Mahal, which is now probably the most famous piece of Islamic architecture in the world.

What makes it so incredible?

Firstly, its sheer size, with the main dome itself standing 240 feet above ground level.

Its design elements are also highly revered, as they combine Indian, Islamic and Persian details. The building is decorated with calligraphy and semiprecious stones, and almost seems to change color with the time of day.

Therme Vals, Switzerland

The Therme Vals in Vals, Switzerland, was completed in 1996 by an award-winning architect.

Wondering what is contained within this timeless, elegant structure?

A bathhouse, which lies over the only thermal springs in the region.

The building itself consists of over 6000 slabs of local stone, which have been layered over each other, while the grassy roof features a few strategically placed sky lights that allow a soft glow to flood the baths. 

The Alhambra, Spain

Welcoming over 5000 visitors each and every day, the restored Alhambra complex is one of the most popular attractions in Spain.

Wondering what it is?

The Alhambra is a palace that was built by Muslim princes in the 14th century. The Islamic elements within the structure are clearly visible, from the Arabic calligraphy to the geometric stalacite designs that have been carved into the walls.

While several parts of the palace have been destroyed, there are three main parts remaining:

  • A fortress, also known as Alcazaba, which can be found on the west side of the hill
  • A primary residence, which can be found to the east side of the hill
  • A collection of gardens and pavilions, known as Generalife

Sagrada Familia, Spain

Sagrada Familia

Editorial credit: Valery Egorov / Shutterstock.com

Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi is world-famous, having created some truly visionary structures in his lifetime. One of his finest pieces of work is the Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona.

Gaudi spent an impressive 40 years working on this Gothic-Art Nouveau cathedral, and when he died in 1926, it was still unfinished.

However, all was not lost…

Even though the original drawings for the cathedral were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, Gaudi’s associates continued to work on this architectural wonder, and are still doing so today.

When is the cathedral expected to be finally finished?

It could be as long as 2026, but visitors are still able to take a look at what is currently there. 

Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Sitting on its very own private island, the Burj Al Arab is the third tallest hotel in the world, with its billowing sail rising 321 metres above sea level.

The hotel was designed to be a national icon, and this aim has most definitely been accomplished, with the Burj Al Arab being one of the most popular attractions in the UAE.

Of course, the best way to experience its architectural splendor, from both inside and out, is to stay at the hotel. However, if you cannot do this, you can still gain access to the private island, and the hotel, by booking yourself a meal at one of its nine luxury restaurants. 

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat

The largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat in Cambodia was originally built in the 12th century, and was designed to be a state temple, and then the mausoleum, for Khmer King Suryavarman.

This fine example of Khmer architecture has become a national symbol, and is even featured on Cambodia’s flag.

Its history is definitely an interesting one…

In its earlier days, the temple was a Hindu one, but after these traditions were abandoned, the temple became dedicated to Vishnu, a Buddhist deity.

Cologne Cathedral, Germany

Cologne Cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany, and for good reason too…

This Gothic masterpiece is not only home to some truly historic works of art, but also contains the tombs of 12 archbishops.

In terms of the actual construction of the cathedral, this actually began in 1248, but was stopped in 1473, long before the cathedral was actually finished. In the 1800s, construction started up again, and the cathedral was finally finished in 1880.

While there have been a few more bouts of construction, as well as restoration, these have all followed the building’s original medieval plan, allowing it all to stay true to the essence of the cathedral.

Beijing National Stadium

Also known as the Bird’s Nest, the Beijing National Stadium is one of the largest steel structures in the world, and took five years to build.

In order to choose an architect for the project, an international competition was held, with the winning entry being one that was inspired by Chinese ceramics.

Does the stadium look familiar?

This is because this was where the 2008 Olympic Games were held, with the design of the stadium earning so much international praise.

Since then, the city has had quite a tough time incorporating the stadium into everyday life, but, nevertheless, they have still managed to really raise worldwide standards when it comes to sports stadiums.

The Blue Planet, Denmark

The blue planet, Denmark

Editorial credit: Kraft_Stoff / Shutterstock.com

Also known as the National Aquarium, Denmark’s Blue Planet holds more than 7 million litres of water.

The design of the building is one that beautifully replicates the water around it, with its sweeping stainless steel tiles almost forming a wave over the water.

From above, the Blue Planet looks just like a whirlpool, while the interior features a central hub from which all of the exhibitions sprawl out from.

California Academy of Sciences, USA

The California Academy of Sciences building has quite a unique structure…

Although it may look quite normal from the ground, view it from a higher vantage point and you will see some excitingly thoughtful details, from the expansive green roof to the curtains made of glass.

The interior of the building is just as impressive.

Glass spheres contain massive rainforests, while aquariums lie behind floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

In addition to being visually stunning, this is a building whose architecture is also functional in a number of ways:

  • The roof allows for rainwater to be recycled
  • The building contains 60,000 solar cells to provide it with solar energy
  • The green roof stretches out for 2.5 acres

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Singapore has always prided itself on being a green city, and Gardens by the Bay is one of the country’s latest examples of this.

What exactly is it?

Simply put, it’s a garden. In fact, one of the top ten gardens in the world.

But it stands out for a number of architectural reasons…

The main one is the Supertrees, which rise up over everything else, containing environmental technology that mimics the ecological function of live trees. The trees are fitted with solar panels, providing energy and light to the rest of the garden, and the Supertrees also help to harvest rainwater for use in the rest of the garden.

The garden is split into three main sections, Central, East and West. You will also find two conservatories here, known as the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome, as well as an adventure trail and a children’s tree house.

The Oslo Opera House, Norway

Oslo Opera House, Norway

Editorial credit: Ana del Castillo / Shutterstock.com

Rather than standing tall and dominating over the harbor, the Oslo Opera House slopes gently down to the water’s edge, making it look almost like a rising glacier.

The design of the building aimed to reflect Norwegian nature, such as the mountains that simply begged to be climbed. In order to properly replicate this, the sloping roof of the building, which is covered in marble, is used as a public space

Of course, the architects quickly realized that the gentle slope would be a temptation that skateboarders would find too hard to resist, so rather than trying to find ways to keep them away, they decided to work with local skateboarders. While they placed bumpy marble over key parts of the rooftop, they left many smooth surfaces elsewhere for skateboarders to enjoy.

The Shard, UK

Also known as the Shard of Glass, the Shard stands 1014 feet high, towering over the city of London. The tallest building in the European Union, the Shard is shaped like a pyramid, and contains 72 storeys that are used for residences.

The architect in charge of the project wanted the building to look as though a shard of glass was emerging from the River Thames, and this has most certainly been accomplished.

Want to pay a visit to the Shard?

Head up to the 72nd floor, where you will find an open air observatory, which is actually the highest one in London.

Tokyo Sky Tree, Japan

The Tokyo Sky Tree stands at 634 meters high, making it the tallest tower in the world, as well as the second tallest structure.

Completed in 2012, the building really stands out for the way in which it has managed to combine traditional Japanese elements with futuristic ideas.

Wondering what’s inside?

The tower mainly serves as a television broadcasting tower, but also contains some restaurants, as well as high speed elevators that whisk visitors up to the top of the building, so they can check out Tokyo’s skyline from the tower’s observation deck.

Petronas Towers, Malaysia

An iconic part of the city of Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Towers are twin skyscrapers that are famous for being the tallest twin towers in the world.

The towers were designed in a postmodern style, and while they mainly contain offices, they are also amongst the city’s top tourist attractions.

The towers stand at 451 meters high, with glass and steel facades that were designed to reflect Islamic art.

The sheer height of the Petronas Towers has inspired many, such as a French urban climber who decided to climb to the top of Tower Two in 2009, with just his hands and feet, and no safety devices.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

Leaning tower of Pisa, Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is world-famous, and is one of the most impressive structures that remains from medieval Europe.

Many people wonder why the tower leans, and here is the answer…

This UNESCO World Heritage Site was originally designed to stand straight and vertical, just like the other structures around it. However, it was built on soft ground, and this settled at a point during construction, causing the tower to lean quite significantly. This was worked on for many years, and while the tower was straightened to some extent, it still has a noticeable lean to it.

While construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1173, there were a number of wars that took place in the area in subsequent years, meaning that the tower was only completed 200 years later.

However, it was this lengthy gap in construction that many experts believe enabled the foundations of the tower to properly settle, which is what has saved it from collapsing.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Russia

The most-visited tourist attraction in the city of Moscow, Saint Basil’s Cathedral almost looks like something out of Disneyland.

However, this magnificent piece of architecture was created long before…

Built between 1554 and 1560, Saint Basil’s Cathedral is shaped to resemble the flame of a bonfire rising up into the sky, and features wonderfully garish colors. With its sharp spikes, onion domes and polygonal towers, this building is unlike anything else that you will see in Russia.

It is located just outside the gates of the Kremlin, in a spot that marks the city’s geometric center. While little is known about the original architect, his incredible creation now serves as one of the city’s museums.

While the USA has a number of world-famous attractions, landmarks and destinations, there are several others that are lesser-known, but equally worth visiting. From canoeing around a true Southern swamp to exploring quaint small towns, here are just a few of the off the beaten path adventures to be had across the USA.

Rock City, Lookout Mountain, Georgia

Lookout Mountain, Georgia

Located just six miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rock City is a rock formation that dates back over 200 million years. From a 90 foot waterfall to a suspended bridge to attractions just for children, there is plenty to see and do here. You will also find a few nature trails that feature over 400 species of plants and trees, as well as some incredible views from the top of Lookout Mountain.

Rosendale, New York

Just two hours away from New York City lies Rosendale, a small town with quite an arty vibe. In 1895, Rosendale experienced a fire that destroyed over half of the town, and many of the buildings that you will see here today were constructed in the early 1900s.

This quaint town is home to a number of artists, so there are always creative events taking place, while the backdrop of the Catskill Mountains and Rondout Creek make it an incredibly picturesque location too.

Falmouth, Massachusetts

A quiet and quaint town, Falmouth is known for its many beaches, with over 68 miles of coastline and 12 miles of shoreline, and also boasts the warmest water temperatures on Cape Cod. Falmouth boasts a number of fantastic restaurants, serving up some of the best cuisine in the area.

In addition to exploring the town itself, Falmouth’s location makes it an ideal base from which to take day trips to explore a few other destinations, including Plymouth, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Caladesi Island, Florida

Caladesi Island, Florida

Caladesi Island may be small, but, seeing as it is only accessible by boat, this keeps the crowds away, and leaves the island beautifully untouched.

There are no paved roads on the island, just three miles of beaches, several winding birding trails, and some fantastic fishing spots. There is a local café that you can eat at, but many visitors choose to bring their own picnic and enjoy this on one of the white sand beaches.

Cache River Park, Cache River State Natural Area, Illinois

The Cache River State Natural Area in Illinois is home to a number of famous swamps, but Cache River park is the one you should visit if you are looking for true solitude. This park receives about 200,000 visitors a year, which equates to about one visitor per acre, each month. While you may not see any other people, you will see forests, wetlands, and floodplains, as well as endangered wildlife species.

Wondering how to get around?

There are both canoe trails as well as foot trails in place to help you to explore the park. You can either bring your own boat, or rent one.

Louisville, Kentucky

This Kentucky city has so much to offer, whether you are into sports, nature or wildlife.

Here are a few of your options:

  • Explore the Louisville Slugger Museum, dedicate to baseball legends
  • Walk through the Jefferson Memorial Forest, which is the largest urban forest in the country and also a designated wildlife refuge
  • Head to Otter Creek Park for spectacular views of the Ohio River
  • Check out some of Louisville’s other 120 parks
  • Take a walk along the city’s waterfront to soak up its skyline
  • Head to the Louisville Mega Cavern for zip lining adventures

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The heart of Amish country, Lancaster is famous for the incredible food and wine that it produces, making this a great destination for any foodies out there.

When is the best time to visit?

June is always a popular month, not only for touring the breweries and wineries, but also because of the Brandywine Wine and Food Festival held here each year.

Other than sampling fine food and wine, here are a few other activities that you can do in Lancaster:

  • Check out some local artists and musicians
  • Take a bike ride through the lush green hills
  • Visit a few of the 25 historical covered bridges in the area

Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford, Colorado

The Smith Fork Ranch is what some would call an all-inclusive resort, but it is one with a big difference…

Rather than spending your days lounging by the pool, you may be doing everything from foraging for wild mushrooms to fly-fishing to horse-riding. In terms of food, this is homemade, but to five star quality, using local ingredients that have been freshly harvested, ensuring that you leave with a whole new appreciation for the land around you.

Accommodation is in luxury cabins, furnished with nothing but the finest of antiques and artisan crafts.

Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico

The ancient town of Taos is one that looks unlike anywhere else you will have seen in the United States, or even the world, and this is a huge part of its charm. This mountain town is not only visually stunning, bordered by the red peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on three sides, but has also really retained its native culture.

This means that not only will you find a thriving art scene in Taos, but the locals also have a strong connection with the great outdoors. If you are feeling especially adventurous, the tallest mountain in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak, is right here waiting to be climbed, while the Taos box section of the Rio Grande is perfect for skilled paddlers.

Little Tybee Island, Georgia

Little Tybee Island is an uninhabited nature preserve that can only be accessed by boat. As you would imagine, this has left the environment here relatively untouched and wild, with the island being home to rich salt marshes, subtropical forests, and flawless beaches. You will also see plenty of wildlife here, from the egret and the heron to the endangered woodstock.

Wondering how to get around?

Kayak tours are always popular, and, since camping is permitted here, you can really take the time to explore the island at your own pace.

Damascus, Virginia

For those who enjoy cycling and hiking, you will love Damascus, as this is where seven major trails all intersect, including the 2180 mile Appalachian Trail.

The actual spot that these trails converge in happens to be the parking lot of a coffee house, which is always buzzing with activity, especially around breakfast-time.

Pando, Fish Lake National Forest, Utah

Pando refers to a collection of over 45,000 trees in Utah’s Fish Lake National Park, which, on first impression, may not seem too impressive.

However, underneath the ground here is a massive root system that connects the trees together, meaning that each tree that you see is actually just a limb that belongs to the largest organism on the plant. Believed to be over 80,000 years old, imagining the incredible underground root system just below your feet is truly a humbling experience. 

Mount Graham International Observatory, Safford, Arizona

Interested in astronomy and telescopes?

Then you will likely already know about the Mount Graham International Observatory, which is home to the largest telescope in the world. This telescope offers even better clarity than the Hubble Space Telescope, and tours are available to visitors on the weekends.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas

Philip Arno Photography / Shutterstock.com

In the 1830s, a huge wave of German immigrants arrived in Fredericksburg, bringing with them their culture, food, architecture, and, of course, their beer. As a result of this, Fredericksburg developed quite a German feel to it, and this is still evident today.

Many of the beer gardens that the German immigrants built are still in use today, while the grape seeds that they planted have resulted in several of the vineyards that you will find in Texas hill Country.

Of course, Fredericksburg is also considered to be quite a foodie destination, with a number of innovative chefs opening up establishments here.

Indiana Caverns, Indiana

Home to the longest cave in Indiana, and the 9th longest in the country, the Indiana Caverns has only recently been opened to the public, which is why many people still do not know about it.

The underground river is used to take visitors on boat tours of the interior of the caverns, which takes about 25 minutes. In addition to seeing a giant underground waterfall, you will also pass through a series of caves, each one sporting its own unique features and characteristics.

Eugene, Oregon

While Portland may be the go-to destination in Oregon for food and wine enthusiasts, Eugene also has great access to wine country, as well as an artisanal food scene that is rapidly growing.

This up-and-coming destination has also earned itself the nickname of TrackTown USA.

Why?

Because this is the birthplace of Nike, as well as being home to a mind-boggling array of running trails and city paths, helping you to work off all of the delicious food that you will eat during your stay here. 

Albuquerque, New Mexico

There are a few different reasons as to why you may want to visit Albuquerque…

To begin with, this is where the hit television show Breaking Bad was filmed, and fans are able to visit Walter White’s house, as well as several other locations used in the show. http://orogoldstores.com/tour-albuquerque-for-breaking-bad-scenes/

Other than that, Albuquerque is considered to be quite the natural playground, making this a great destination for outdoor lovers. With 310 days of sunshine and blue skies a year, as well as colorful sands, some of the finest golf courses in the country, and famous hot air balloon rides, you will never be short of something new to do here.

The Wave, North Coyote Buttes, Arizona

The Wave, Arizona

Located near the Arizona and Utah border, The Wave is a spectacular sandstone formation that features around eight miles of vibrantly colored trails. These date back over 180 million years, and really make for an incredible landscape.

However, there is one slight problem…

Acquiring a permit to visit this historical natural structure is not that easy, requiring a reservation as well as a lottery system. However, you can apply for all of this online, and it is well worth trying your luck at getting a permit, as this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Nevada Northern Railway, Ely, Nevada

The Nevada Northern Railway was built over 100 years ago, as a form of transportation for the copper mining industry in the region. Today, it is famous for being the last railroad of its kind, and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Visitors can take a ride along this historic route, which takes around 90 minutes, and then explore the grounds and shops nearby. There is even the option of booking accommodation in a traditional bunkhouse or caboose, for those who really want to immerse themselves in the experience.

Sutter Creek, California

Sutter Creek is a quaint town with historic Victorian architecture and a rich sense of heritage. It is also the center of Amador Wine Country, and the wines that you will find here are exceptional in quality.

Equal to those of what you would find at Napa Valley, the advantage to Sutter Creek is the fact that there are far less crowds here, giving you more of an opportunity to make the most of its fine wine.

Arcata, California

Arcata, California

Located in Humboldt County, the small town of Arcata is one that cherishes the value that the natural world brings, going out of their way to preserve the forests and wildlife around them. In return, the forests here are thriving, making this a great spot to get up close and personal with some redwoods.

Head to the North Coast Adventure Center, where, after putting on a harness, you will be able to shimmy 100 feet up the back of a giant redwood, and then zip line your way across the forest.

Talkeetna, Alaska

Talkeetna is the perfect destination for those seeking a winter wonderland type of adventure.

Here are just a few of the things that you can do in this quaint Alaskan town:

  • Try your hand at some Nordic skiing
  • Ride a snowmobile across frozen rivers
  • View the Northern Lights
  • Go flightseeing
  • Take a zip line tour

 

assorted chocolate

A sweet treat that so many find impossible to resist, chocolate used to be referred to as the food of the Gods, and has been around for over 4000 years.

Want to learn more about this delectable ingredient, while tasting some of the finest chocolate that the world has to offer?

Then book yourself a ticket to one of these chocolate-loving destinations:

Brussels, Belgium

Home to more chocolatiers per square foot than any other city in the world, Brussels is known for being the chocolate capital of the world.

To begin with, pay a visit to the Musee de Cacao et du Chocolat. This is a private museum that will teach you how chocolate is made, with daily demonstrations so that you can see the process for yourself. They also offer free tasting sessions, helping you to learn how to differentiate between the different types of chocolate out there. 

Once you have buffed up on your chocolate knowledge, take a stroll through the city to check out some of its renowned chocolate shops.

brussels, belgium

Cottin Lucille / Shutterstock.com

Here are a few that you definitely should not miss out on:

  • Godiva and Leonidas – two of the biggest chocolate companies in the world, both born in Brussels, with flagship stores here
  • Mary founded in 1919, Mary Delluc was the first woman to pioneer Belgian chocolates, helping to change it from a medicinal ingredient to a luxury treat
  • Zaabar uses innovative ingredients to create rich Belgian chocolates. Expect to see everything from exotic spices to fragrant flowers
  • Belvas one of the first organic chocolatiers in northern Europe, the chocolate at Belvas is gluten-free, organic, fair trade, and sugar-free, but still tastes as good as all of the other Belgian chocolates out there
  • Neuhaus this is where the praline was invented, and you can taste them at the original store, made to the original recipe

Bariloche, Argentina

Due to its weather, its Swiss architecture, and its history of chocolate-making, Bariloche in Argentina prides itself on being “Little Switzerland”.

The very first place to head to is the Fenoglio Museo del Chocolate, which is the city’s chocolate museum. Here, you will be able to learn about the history of chocolate in Argentina, the production process, and even watch chocolate being made right in front of you.

Then, make your way over to downtown Bariloche, to Mitre Avenue in particular. This road is known as Avenue of Chocolate Dreams, and for good reason too…

No matter how much you prepare yourself, you will probably end up slightly overwhelmed at the amount of chocolate all around you. There are just so many chocolate stores to visit here, but with the majority of them offering up samples on the street, you will be able to have a quick taste before deciding whether or not you want to explore the shop further.

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Known as the “sweetest place on Earth”, Hershey used to be called Derry Church, before its name was changed in 1906 due to the popularity of the chocolate.

There are quite a few chocolate-related things to do here:

  • Visit Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you will enjoy a tour of the factory, the opportunity to create your own chocolate bar, a chocolate tasting experience, and many other sweet attractions 

    Hershey's chocolate world

    LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

  • Try one of the chocolate treatments at The Spa at Hotel Hershey. These include an edible dark chocolate face mask, whipped cocoa baths, chocolate massages, chocolate hydrotherapy and more.
  • Enjoy a chocolate-filled meal at Hershey Grill, where your meal will begin with chocolate butter, and end with an array of chocolate wonders.
  • Head to the Iberian Lounge at Hotel Hershey, for a chocolate cocktail. Choose from the Hershey’s Kisses Signature Chocolate Martini, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Martini, and the Hershey’s Chocolate Caramel Martini, amongst many others.
  • Take a ride on the Hershey Trolley Works Tour to learn more about the history of the town of Hershey, and how chocolate changed its fortune

St. Lucia, Caribbean

The Caribbean island of St. Lucia is known for its tropical beaches and sparkling seas, but it has long since also attracted serious chocolate lovers.

Cocoa is actually one of the most important crops on the island, with its history here dating back to the 1700’s.

The place to stay at on St. Lucia is Hotel Chocolat, an estate that makes chocolate from beans grown on its very own plantation. In fact, the hotel offers a Tree to Bar experience, where guests can explore the groves, pick their own cocoa pod, and then create their own chocolate.

There are numerous cocoa plantations to be found all over St. Lucia, such as the Emerald Estate, La Dauphine Estate and the Anse Mamin Plantation, all of which offer tours of their grounds, while showing visitors how they make chocolate.

Of course, spa treatments are one of the highlights of a relaxing Caribbean break, and many of the spas in St. Lucia offer treatments that feature chocolate.

Here are a few spas to check out:

  • Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort – offers a chocolate body scrub using Dead Sea salts and 100% organic cacao
  • Ti Kaye Village Resort and Spa their chocolate package includes a chocolate body scrub, a chocolate massage and a chocolate wrap
  • Kai En Ciel Boutique Spa, Jade Mountain Resort their Chocolate Delight treatment makes use of different layers of warm and cool chocolate

Oaxaca, Mexico

Although Mexico is not a major producer of cacao, and actually consumes more cacao than it produces, chocolate is a huge part of Mexican culture, and features in the daily diet here.

Cacao-based drinks are extremely popular, and you will see these being sold just about everywhere, from five star hotels to vendors on the street.

Wondering what the different drinks are? Here are a few that you have to try:

  • Tejate – known as the “drink of the Gods”, tejate is a complex drink made from corn, roasted cacao beans, rosita flowers and mamey seeds. Preparation for this beverage takes a few hours, so tejate tends to only be available after 11am.
  • Champurrado the perfect drink for a cold day, this beverage is extremely rich and filling, almost like a porridge
  • Tascalate served cold over ice, tascalate is a light and refreshing cacao drink
  • Chocolate a classic hot chocolate drink
  • Chocolate-Atole made and consumed only in Oaxaca, this drink features beans that have been fermented for five months, and tends to be made for ceremonies and rituals

chocolate with Oaxaca bread

Of course, when in Oaxaca, you will likely visit several mercados, which are the local outdoor markets, to do some shopping. In addition to the many other goods on display, you will find several local vendors selling their own handmade chocolate, featuring a huge variety of different fruits, nuts, herbs and spices.

If you are looking for chocolate shops, then Mina Street is the place to head to. From chocolate boutiques to chocolate bars, each with barrels of cocoa beans in their doorways, you will never be short of chocolate here.

Zurich and Broc, Switzerland

Switzerland is home to some of the biggest players in the chocolate world, and Zurich is home to factories and stores belonging to three of them – Lindt, Treuscher and Sprungli.

Want to bag a chocolate discount?

Then make sure that you head to the Lindt factory store, as you will not only enjoy a percentage off retail price, but you will also be able to purchase half-price chocolates that were rejected due to incorrect packaging or some other business error.

When it comes to visiting the smaller, quainter chocolate stores, here are a few that you should not miss:

  • Confiserie Sprungli – founded in 1836, this iconic Swiss company sell every type of chocolate you could imagine. While they are known for their Luxemburgerli macarons, you should also give the truffle cake, as well as the fresh truffles of the day, a try.
  • Confiserie Honold there is plenty to choose from at this traditional confiserie, but you cannot beat the spiked hot chocolate with the homemade cake
  • Laderach a family-owned chocolate shop with some innovative handmade chocolate varieties. Each month, a new, experimental flavor is launched
  • Teuscher founded in 1932, Teuscher is famous for their filled chocolates, such as their delectable champagne truffles

Zurich itself is quite a foodie city, and there are so many food-related attractions to be found here.

Want more chocolate?

Less than a two hour drive from Zurich lies the town of Broc, which is home to the Maison Cailler factory, now owned by Nestle. 

Cailler has an impressive history, and a factory visit will definitely not disappoint…

From watching a live camera feed of the factory floor to peeking in on the production process, to enjoying all-you-can-eat chocolate samples at the end, you will no doubt get your fill of chocolate here. If you don’t, there is plenty of chocolate to purchase from the factory store.

Ecuador, Africa

Ecuador grows some of the most highly-prized chocolate in the world, and was the largest exporter of cocoa in the world until the start of the 20th century. While mass production moved elsewhere, Ecuador found itself a new niche, in that of fine beans.

The best way to really experience Ecuador’s chocolate culture is by following the Ecuadorian Cacao Route, which is a nine day journey. 

Some of the places that you will see include Hacienda Canas, where you will learn about harvesting cacao beans, and Rio Muchacho Organic Farm, where you will experience the chocolate-making process from bean to cup. You will also stop by the town of Vince. This is the original home of Arriba chocolate, which many connoisseurs would say is one of the finest beans available.

cacao tree

If you do not want to plan this trip yourself, there are many package holiday tours that you can book, in which a guided tour will take you along the Ecuadorian Cacao Route, ensuring that you do not miss out on any highlights.

Tain l’Hermitage, France

A quaint, historic town, Tain l’Hermitage sits by the Rhone River, and while many know it for its fine wine, it also has quite the reputation when it comes to chocolate.

This is where Valrhona is based, a premium French chocolate manufacturer, and a visit to their factory and store is a must.

This is not just any ordinary factory visit…

Valrhona have transformed their historic location into an immersive world of chocolate, where visitors are able to learn all about it. Your journey begins by using each one of your senses to get to know chocolate, before the production secrets of this traditional brand are shared with you. You will also learn more about growing cacao beans, as well as look behind-the-scenes into the workshops of master roasters and coaters.

There are so many other activities to enjoy here, no matter what age you may be.

When it comes to tasting a few of the different chocolate-based dishes around town, there is plenty to choose from

If you simply cannot decide, give one of these a try:

  • Crepe au Chocolat – a crepe that features a melted chocolate spread
  • Chocolat Liegeois a cold dessert consisting of chocolate, ice cream and whipped cream
  • Tarte au Chocolat Amer a chocolate tart featuring bitter chocolate
  • Croissant au Chocolat the second-most popular croissant, featuring a chocolate filling

If you are visiting Tain l’Hermitage in February, make sure you are available on the last Friday. This is the start of the four-day Salon des Vins de Tain, which is a local wine festival.

While you may not be in the mood for wine, this is also where many local chocolatiers gather to showcase their goods.

With historic roots in so many different cultures around the world, chocolate is so much more than just a sweet treat. From the traditional chocolate-making techniques in Belgium to the cacao culture of Mexico, these destinations are guaranteed to give you a whole new appreciation for chocolate.

The capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, welcoming in over five million people each year. From the historic Anne Frank House to the renowned Red Light District, here are the top 10 things to do in the vibrant city of Amsterdam.

1. Take A Tour of the Anne Frank House

The author of the most widely-read book in the world, teenager Anne Frank, and her family, were hiding in Amsterdam during World War II. This is the very same house that the family hid in, and it has now been turned into a museum.

The tour begins on the ground floor, and takes you up the steep stairs to the secret annex that housed the family. Anne’s room has been preserved extremely well, with the walls still sporting the photos of movie stars, as well as magazine clippings, that the teenager had decorated her room with.

If you are familiar with the Diary of Anne Frank, you will know that the family were captured and taken to concentration camps. At the end of the museum tour, you will be able to watch a few video clips that depict life in these camps.

While the mood at the museum may be quite a sombre one, this is definitely one of the city’s must-see historical attractions

2. Cycle Around the City

Amsterdam is known for being one of the bike capitals of the world, with around one million bicycles circulating through the city. Since Amsterdam is so compact and flat, with its streets quite small and narrow, this is the perfect destination to explore on a bike rather than in a car.

couple cycling in amsterdam

So, how do you go about renting a bike?

There are bike rental shops to be found all over the city, and simply require a small deposit. If you are an experienced cyclist, you can then head off straight onto the busy streets. However, if you have not ridden for a while, it would be worth finding a quiet area to practice in before venturing into the traffic.

There are bike paths criss-crossing throughout the city, running alongside all of the roads, and these will take you past many of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions. If you would like some guidance on where to go, you could always sign up for a cycling tour of the city, as these will have a guide to talk you through all of the sights that you will pass.

3. Soak Up Some Art at Museumplein

Renowned for being the most prestigious spot in Amsterdam, Museumplein is home to three of the most important museums in the city. For those of you who are fans of art, each of these museums are worth visiting:

  • The Van Gogh Museum Home to the largest collection of artwork by Vincent Van Gogh in the world, the Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the world’s most popular artist. This is one of the most-visited museums in the world, featuring over 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the artist, as well as work from his peers. 
  • Rijksmuseum Known as the State Museum in English, Rijksmuseum first opened its doors in 1800, meaning that it has been around for over 200 years. The museum’s collection consists of many masterpiece paintings, as well as items that relate to Dutch culture.
  • The Stedeljik Museum – Home to one of the richest collections of modern art in the world, the Stedeljik Museum is excitingly innovative, and is located in a building of architectural excellence.

4. Go On a Canal Cruise

Nicknamed as the Venice of the North, 20% of the surface of Amsterdam is made up of water, and there are more than 100 kilometres of canals throughout the city.

This tends to be an activity done more by tourists than locals, but it is still a great way to see some of Amsterdam’s most iconic sights, from a unique perspective. The canal ring itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are several different cruise operators that you can choose from when it comes to experiencing this historic part of the city. 

These are some of the most popular cruises:

  • The Amsterdam Canal Bus – a hop on, hop off cruise, with 16 stops to explore
  • The Rijksmuseum Canal Cruise – hosted by the Blue Boat Company, this cruise will take you to locations that have inspired the famous museum’s art collection
  • Champagne Canal Cruisetakes you to some of the city’s best spots, all while you sip on glasses of champagne
  • Pannenkoekenboot’s 75 Minute Cruise travels along the IJ River, and offers up an all-you-can-eat pancake bar

5. Taste Some Local Street Food

You will find street food vendors all over Amsterdam, no matter the time of the day. Here are some of the street food snacks that you should definitely not miss out on:

  • Stroopwafles – These are circular waffles, that are sandwiched together with a caramel-esque syrup in between. While you can purchase pre-made versions at many stores, nothing beats them hot and freshly made.
  • Nieuw Herring – Nieur herring is a type of pickled herring, and has a sweetness to it that makes it a delicious bite to eat. They are usually cut up into bite-sized pieces, alongside onions and pickled cucumbers, and served with a toothpick.
  • Poffertjes – These are similar to American-style pancakes, but made with buckwheat and served with butter and powdered sugar. While these can be found all year round, they are most popular during the colder months, as they always manage to warm you right up.
  • Bitterballen – Deep fried and deliciously crispy, bitterballen are small balls that have been made from shredded and spiced beef gravy. While they are served with a variety of sauces, give them a try with a savoury mustard, as this takes the flavor to a whole new level.

poffertjes

Poffertjes are mini Dutch pancakes, usually topped with powdered sugar.

If you are only in the city for a short while, then head to De Hallen, which is a new arts, fashion and food center.

Why would you need to go here for street food?

For Foodhallen. This is where you will find a mouthwatering array of upmarket street food stalls, all serving up traditional street snacks, but with a high end twist. http://foodhallen.nl/

6. Try A Spot of Shopping

Amsterdam is a great city to shop in, because not only does it have a fantastic range of shops, but it is also so compact, making it easy to get from store to store.

Want to know exactly where to go? Here are the city’s best shopping areas:

  • P.C. Hooftstraat – the most famous shopping area in the city, and the third best shopping street in the world, this is where to go if you are seeking high-end, luxury labels
  • Dam Square home to De Bijenkorf, a luxury department store, as well as a number of international fashion brands, such as Topshop and H&M
  • Spiegelkwartier the best spot for art and antiques, with over 70 antique shops and galleries
  • The Utrechtsestraat a quirky area home to concept stores, record shops, fashion boutiques and interior design galleries
  • The Haarlemmerdijk a trendy and lively shopping street with everything from local fashion designers to speciality foods

Of course, Amsterdam is also home to many street markets. The Albert Cuypmarkt is one of the largest, and can be found in Pijp. You will find everything from spices to vintage clothing here, and it is such a lively place to browse.

Just about every neighbourhood in the city will have their own street markets, and many will also host farmers markets on the weekends.

7. Visit the Red Light District

Amsterdam’s Red Light District, also known as De Wallen, is famous world over. Sex workers were legalized in the city in 2000, and the Red Light District is the very heart of this booming industry.

De Wallen can be found in the oldest part of the city, and consists of an eclectic mix of bars, sex shops, and brothels, as well as around 300 windows where you will find women showcasing their wares.

red light district in Amsterdam

4kclips / Shutterstock.com

Wondering if it is safe to wander around here at night?

There is no doubt that the area can get quite seedy the later it gets, but nothing quite beats the Red Light District for a thrilling evening walk. This is often a highlight of the city for many tourists, as it will be completely unlike anything else you have ever seen.

However, make sure that you keep these tips in mind:

    • Never take photos of the women in the windows. This is a strictly followed rule in this area, and breaking it could get you into some serious trouble with the bouncers that line the streets
    • Keep an eye out for pickpockets, especially if you are visiting during a busy time
    • Try not to visit alone, as this could attract unwanted attention, especially if you are a female

8. Go for an Afternoon of Beer-Tasting

Amsterdam’s craft beer culture is thriving, and there is nothing quite like spending an afternoon sampling some of the many local brews that you will find here.

Many of the local breweries have tasting rooms, and offer tours of their facilities too.

Here are some of the best breweries to check out:

  • Brouwerij ‘t Lj – this beer is a household name in the Netherlands, and the brewery can be found underneath an iconic windmill, with a large, traditionally decorated tasting room
  • Butcher’s Tears an excitingly innovative brewery that experiments with different flavors
  • Brouwerij Troost the largest independent brewery in the city with three locations to choose from
  • Oedipus Brewery focused on Dutch beer culture and refining traditional techniques, with a taproom that offers up 12 seasonal beers
  • Brouwerij de 7 Deugden a newer brewery that creates six year-round beers and one seasonal beer
  • Jopenkerk housed in a church and follows original recipes, one of which dates back to 1407

9. Visit the Only Floating Flower Market in the World

The city’s most colorful, and sweetly scented, attraction, Bloemenmarkt is famous for being the only floating flower market in the world.

How does it work?

The market stalls are houseboats that are lined up along the Singel Canal, and there are usually around 15 to 20 stalls here. Each one is filled with a variety of fresh flowers, with the exact species depending on what is in season.

Amsterdam's floating flower market

In addition to fresh blooms, you will also find potted plants, loose tulip bulbs and seeds, the latter of which many tourists purchase to take home with them, to plant them in their own garden. You will also find a range of souvenirs here, from clogs to cheese to decorative tulips. 

Visiting the city in the winter?

There will still be quite a bit to see at the flower market, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

10. Check Out the Nightlife Scene

Amsterdam comes alive in a whole new way once the sun goes down, and the city is renowned for its nightlife scene.

The two main nightlife areas are Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein, both of which are home to a variety of venues. Whether you are after live music, pulsating night clubs, or a sleek cocktail bar, you will find all of that here.

Of course, the Red Light District is also home to a number of different bars, and it is definitely worth popping in to one of these one evening for a drink.

Throughout the city, you will come across several theaters. While this may mean one thing in your country, the late-night theaters in Amsterdam tend to be dedicated to erotic shows, so make sure that you know what you are getting yourself in to!

Wondering what to wear?

People tend to dress quite casually when out on the town in Amsterdam, although it does depend on where you are going. Jeans are usually fine, and very few clubs will enforce a dress code.

A dynamic and vibrant cosmopolitan city, Hong Kong is filled with an electrifying energy that many visitors find so addictive. Hong Kong’s islands are packed with so much to see and do, and while you are unlikely to be able to cover them all in one visit, here are 15 things that you should definitely not miss out on.

1. Take the Tram to Victoria Peak

One of the best views of Hong Kong can be enjoyed from Victoria Peak, which rises 1805 feet above sea level. When visiting on a clear day, you will be able to see everything from Victoria Harbour to the eight mountains of Kowloon.

Wondering how to get to Victoria Peak?

There are a number of different ways, but the most popular is the Peak Tram, which is famous for being the steepest funicular railway in the world. The journey itself takes just seven minutes, and is always a thrilling ride.

After taking in the incredible view from the Observation Deck, there are a few other things that you can do at Victoria Peak:

  • Take a walk along the Peak Trail
  • Enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants here
  • Visit Madame Tussauds Hong Kong 

Star Ferry, Hong Kong

Editorial credit: Daniel Fung / Shutterstock.com

2. A Cruise on the Star Ferry

While there may be easier ways to get around the city, the Star Ferry is famous for offering up one of the most scenic boat rides in the world.

Star Ferry has been around since 1888, transporting 20 million passengers across the harbour each year.

The views really are some of the best that you will experience in Hong Kong, with the glittering, towering skyline surrounding you on both sides of the water.

3. Explore Lantau Island

The largest island in Hong Kong, Lantau Island is sparsely populated, and is home to some gorgeous natural beauty.

One of the highlights of Lantau Island is the Tai O Fishing Village, which really takes you back to Hong Kong’s earlier days. This charming village features stilt houses and many other historic elements, with local fisherman offering up their catch of the day, which is then turned into a deliciously traditional meal by hand. 

Once you have explored Tai O, these are a few other activities that you can do:

  • Visit Disneyland, which is mentioned below
  • Take a 25 minute ride on the Ngong Ping 360, which is a cable car that offers stunning views
  • Visit the Po Lin Monastery
  • Try out the many hiking and biking trails
  • Relax on a tropical beach

cable car on Lantau Island, Hong Kong

4. Visit a theme park

Hong Kong is home to two main theme parks, and many visitors choose to dedicate a day to one of them.

These are your options:

  • Ocean Park Hong Kong – the largest amusement park, as well as one of the most popular attractions in the city, with rides, entertainment, animals, exhibits and an education center
  • Hong Kong Disneyland although this is the smallest Disneyland in the world, there are still seven theme parks within the grounds, and that number keeps rising

Another popular choice would be Snoopy’s World, which is not technically a theme park, but more of an outdoor playground. Dedicated to Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang, this is a must-visit for fans of the classic comic.

5. Sample Local Street Food

The people of Hong Kong are avid foodies, and there are so many delicious local dishes here that you will have never tried before. Street food stalls can be found all over Hong Kong, and each one will usually specialize in certain dishes.

Not sure where to start?

Here are a few must-try street food dishes:

  • Egg Tarts – similar to Portuguese custard tarts, but with a smooth and glossy surface
  • Cheung Fun a silky, cylindrical rice noodle roll, filled with meat or seafood and then coated in sesame, hoisin and soy sauce. This is a dish usually eaten for breakfast or lunch
  • Siu Mai classic steamed dumplings on a skewer, filled with minced fish or pork
  • Fried Chestnuts – sold on just about every street corner, these are crunchy and sweet, and are a great snack to munch on if you are on the go
  • Egg Waffles soft on the inside but crispy and golden on the outside, egg waffles have made a name for themselves in recent years and are now being sold on the streets of other major cities around the world
  • Stinky Tofu – soaked in a brine for a few months, this tofu dish has a strong, pungent smell, but actually tastes delicious

6. Take a Ride on the Longest Escalator in the World

Have you ever wondered where the world’s longest escalator is?

Probably not, but the answer is Hong Kong.

Named the Central Mid-Levels Escalator and Walkway System, the escalator officially opened to the public in 1993, and measures 2624 feet in length.

While this may seem like a kooky attraction, the escalator actually serves a purpose…

Hong Kong is actually a very hilly and steep terrain, and installing the escalator meant that a large part of the city could now be pedestrianized.

longest escalator in the world, Hong Kong

The longest escalator in the world. Editorial credit: DoublePHOTO studio / Shutterstock.com

Want to spend the rest of the day exploring the city by foot after riding the escalator?

The Queen’s Road section is connected to the Central Elevated Walkway, which is an extensive footbridge network that will take you around Central Hong Kong, keeping you away from traffic.

7. A Sunset Cruise on a Traditional Chinese Junk Boat

You will see Chinese junk boats all along the Hong Kong harbour, and these used to be traditional fishing boats.

Although not often used for fishing today, these boats now offer up a way for both locals and tourists to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and spend some time on the water. This is a popular weekend activity for locals, but there are many rides available for tourists too.

How long do they last for?

The rides range from four to eight hours, although they can be customized depending on your needs. No matter which one you opt for, do try to plan your trip so that it coincides with the sunset, as there is nothing quite like watching the twinkling skyline come to life as the sun sets behind the skyscrapers.

8. Climb to the Top of the Big Buddha

Located on Lantau Island, Tian Tian is the second largest sitting Buddha in the world, and is a must-visit if you are looking to soak up some culture and heritage.

Tian Tian stands at 34 metres tall, and it is possible for visitors to climb up to the top of the statue.

Worried about the climb?

There are 268 stairs in total, and they can be quite challenging on especially hot and humid days. However, there is plenty of space here to frequently stop and take a break, and the view from the top is more than worth it

big buddha, lantau island, Hong Kong

9. Enjoy a Meal at One of the Most Affordable Michelin-Starred Restaurants in the World

The Michelin guide is known for showcasing some of the finest restaurants in the world, and while many of these may be extravagant, fine dining establishments, there is one in Hong Kong that is actually quite different…

Tim Ho Wan is a humble, simple dim sum restaurant, although after it rose to fame for its incredible food, there are now locations opening up all over the world.

Wondering what dim sum is?

Its a type of Cantonese cuisine that features bite-sized dishes on small plates and baskets, similar to Spanish tapas.

Since these plates are quite small, this is a great opportunity to sample a number of different dim sum dishes, although make sure that you do order the pork buns, as the restaurant is famous for making some of the best in the region. 

10. Visit The Street Markets

Hong Kong is home to a number of different street markets, each one offering up a lively atmosphere and some fantastic bargains.

Here are a few not to be missed:

  • Ladies’ Market – as you can tell from the name, this market focuses on clothes and accessories for women, many of them excitingly on trend, with over 100 stalls to choose from
  • Cat Street While Cat Street used to be an antique treasure trove, many would say that it is now a glorified flea market. However, if you are looking for some serious antiques, Cat Street is still worth a browse, especially since it is a stone’s throw away from Hollywood Road, where you will find several serious dealers
  • Stanley Market this is a market geared more towards tourists, and is the place to go if you are looking for standard souvenirs to take home with you
  • Wan Chai Street Market this is one of the largest outdoor markets on Hong Kong Island, and many would equate it to an outdoor department store, as you can find just about everything here
  • Temple Street Night Market one of the best night markets in Hong Kong, hundreds of stalls pop up on Temple Street once the sun goes down, selling everything from clothing to street food

11. An Evening of Bar-Hopping

Hong Kong’s nightlife scene is legendary, with different parts of the city offering up quite a different experience.

If you do not have much time in Hong Kong, spending an evening bar-hopping will give you the opportunity to check out several of the hottest venues in the city

There are some of the best neighbourhoods, and their bars, to head to for a night that you will never forget:

  • Lan Kwai Fong – the heart and soul of Hong Kong’s nightlife scene. Head to the Hong Kong Brew House for craft beer, Post 97 for handcrafted cocktails, Insomnia for live music, or Volar to dance the night away
  • SoHo most of the bars here are in small clusters, making it easy to jump from one to the next. L.A.B is where you will find one-of-a-kind cocktails, while Peel Fresco is great for live blues and jazz.
  • Wan Chai Hong Kong’s red light district also boasts a number of joints that are not too seedy, such as Coyote Bar and Grill, which serves up 75 flavors of margarita, as well as Delaney’s, a cozy Irish pub.
  • Tsim Sha Tsui this neighbourhood is artsy and eclectic, and its venues reflect this. Artesian focuses on gin and bourbon specialities, while Vibes is a hidden rooftop garden bar that will whisk you away to another world.

Lan Kwai Fong street market, Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong street market. Editorial credit: YIUCHEUNG / Shutterstock.com

12. Visit a Temple

Although Hong Kong may seem like such a modern metropolis, it still has a spiritual side, and is home to a number of gorgeous temples.

Want to visit a couple?

Check these ones out:

  • Chi Lin Nunnery – one of the largest Buddhist temples in Hong Kong, and designed in the style of the Tang Dynasty
  • Tsing Shan Monastery one of the oldest temples in Hong Kong and dedicated to Dou Lao, a God who can help people with their anxieties
  • Fung Ying Seen Koon founded in 1929, this temple boasts exquisitely detailed architecture
  • Wong Tai Sin Temple one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, this temple is designed in the traditional Chinese style

13. Explore Lamma Island

While the energetic pace of Hong Kong is one of its main attractions, there will always be those days when you just want some peace and quiet.

So, where do you go?

Lamma Island is the perfect place, because even though it is located just three kilometres from Hong Kong Island, it feels like a completely different world.

With tropical beaches, traditional fishing villages, miles of hiking trails and cultural landmarks, Lamma Island is reminiscent of what Hong Kong used to be like in its earlier days.

14. Catch a Horse Race at Happy Valley Racecourse

There are two horse racing courses in Hong Kong, and one of them is the Happy Valley Racecourse. This is one of the only urban racecourses in the world, and can seat over 55,000 spectators.

The racing season begins in September and ends in July, with races carried out throughout the week, giving you plenty of opportunity to catch one. 

In addition to watching a few races, you can also check out the Hong Kong Racing Museum, which is located at the racecourse.

15. Spare a Moment for the Museums

Hong Kong is home to such a diverse range of museums, many of which are among the best in the region.

Whether you are looking to learn more about the city’s art and culture, or its history and heritage, these are some of the best museums to head to:

  • Hong Kong Museum of History – encompasses 400 million years of history, including exhibits on prehistoric Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong Heritage Museum has a strong focus on local culture
  • University Museum and Art Gallery established in 1953, this is the oldest museum in Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong Museum of Art features more than 16,000 pieces of art, making it home to one of the largest collections of artwork in Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong Science Museum an interactive museum that is fun for the whole family
  • Hong Kong Maritime Museum explores the maritime history of Hong Kong, China, and the rest of Asia

Hong Kong Museum of Art

Hong Kong Museum of Art. Editorial credit: Daniel Fung / Shutterstock.com

Hoping to visit a few different museums?

It may then be worth purchasing a museum pass, which grants you access to a number of different museums, including their special exhibits. 

Europe is famous for its incredible gardens, many of which are filled with historic significance. From Monet’s Garden in Giverny to the Ljubljana Botanical Garden in Slovenia, there is an inexhaustible number of must-visit gardens in Europe. 

Here, we list our top 6 choices.

1. MONET’S GARDEN, GIVERNY, FRANCE

Whether you are an art lover or not, you’ve likely heard of Claude Monet, one of the most famous painters in all of history.

Monet was one of the founders of the French Impressionist style of art, a movement that featured a unique style of painting scenes from nature, emphasizing the way in which changing light influenced the landscape.

One of Monet’s most famous pieces is Water Lilies, and this garden, in Giverny, France, which was also Monet’s home and personal garden, provided the artist with the inspiration for this painting. 

The garden itself is split into two sections: the Clos Normand, and the Water Garden.

Clos Normand

Clos Normand is more of a cottage-style garden, and is located directly in front of Monet’s house. The flowers are the highlight of this garden, especially in the summer months when all of the blooms are at their best.

What about Monet’s house?

This two-storey building has now been turned into a museum, and is open for the public to explore.

The Water Garden

The second part of Monet’s Garden is the water garden, and, if you are familiar with the Water Lilies painting, then this is something that you will recognize as soon as you set your eyes on it.

The focal point of the garden is the pond, filled with, as you might have guessed, water lilies. The Japanese-style bridge from the painting is also present, and there are leafy trees that surround the pond and provide a sense of intimacy.

Getting to Monet’s Garden

Monet’s Garden is located just an hour away from Paris, making this a fantastic day-trip destination if you are already visiting the French capital. There are trains available every hour, as well as frequent river boat cruises, which are great if you want to combine your visit with a few other nearby destinations.

A Few Extra Tips:

  • Arrive as early as you can in order to avoid the crowds. This will ensure that you are able to take photographs of the garden, and bridge, without too many people in the way, and will also save you from having to queue up at the entrance
  • Tickets can be purchased online in advance, which will save you quite a bit of time on the day
  • Give yourself at least an hour or two for exploring the gardens

2. KEW GARDENS, LONDON, ENGLAND

Also known as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens was originally founded in 1759, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sprawled out for over 300 acres, Kew Gardens is considered to be one of the most important collections of living plants in the world.

Being such a large, expansive garden, there is so much to see here. These are a few of the highlights:

  • The Alpine House – The Alpine House is one of the newest additions to Kew Gardens, and features plant displays that are frequently rotated. All of the plants that you will find here are capable of surviving at altitudes of up to 7000 feet, such as tulips, thymes, lavenders and some rare plants.
  • The Palm House – The architecture of the Palm House won its designers numerous awards, and the interior is definitely a sight that needs to be seen. This glass house, which features 16,000 panes of glass, contains a range of different palm trees, including the rare double coconut palm.
  • The Treetop Walkway – If you are visiting Kew Gardens with your family, then you will definitely not want to miss out on the Treetop Walkway, as this is something that will delight the whole family. The walkway extends for 660 feet over a gorgeous wooded area of the gardens, and, standing at 59 feet high, gives you a panoramic view of your surroundings.

There is so much else to see here, including the Temperate House, the Japanese Garden, the Orangery, and Kew Palace.

Want to explore the gardens but don’t want to miss out on any of its highlights?

There are guided walking tours available twice a day, as well as a motorized tour with a running commentary. This is great if you do not have the whole day to spare, as you can disembark at the specific stops around the park that you wish to explore further.

Here are a few extra tips to keep in mind when planning your visit:

  • Clothing – dress warm but wear a jacket that is easy to remove, as certain areas, such as the Palm House and the Temperate House, can get uncomfortably warm. Also be sure to wear flat shoes, as some of the glasshouses contain grated floors
  • Food there are a number of eateries located around the gardens, as well as some wonderfully scenic picnic spots
  • Garden Guides – if you are exploring the gardens on your own, pick up a garden guide at the entrance, as this will help you to understand more about all of the different features that you will see

3. ISOLA BELLA, VERBANIA, ITALY

A small island situated in Lake Maggiore, Isola Bella means beautiful island in English. In the past, this rocky island used to be inhabited by local fisherman, but, in 1630, it was turned into an extraordinary garden by an aristocratic family.

This garden is immaculately landscaped, and, since it can only be reached by boat, has a truly rare sense of intimacy and seclusion. The terraces here feature a wide range of different colorful plants, such as azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons, as well as some rare tree species, such as the ancient camphor tree.

Of course, when visiting Isola Bella, having a look at the impressive Borromeo Palace is a must…

This is a grand, extravagant palace that lies at the heart of the island, and has only recently been opened to the public.

Just nearby to Isola Bella lies Isola Madra, the largest of all of the islands in Lake Maggiore.

Wondering what there is to do here?

Well, this is another island that features a one-of-a-kind garden, this time with more of a tropical feel, which is possible thanks to the island’s unique micro-climate. The plants that you will see here are much rarer than those on Isola Bella, with many of them being exotic and aromatic.

Getting to the Islands

As mentioned above, the only way to access these islands is by boat, and the best place to embark is the town of Stresa. From here, it takes just five minutes to reach Isola Bella, and then another 20 minutes or so to reach Isola Madra, with ticket packages available that make it easy to combine a trip to both.

4. LJUBLJANA BOTANICAL GARDEN, LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA

The oldest botanical garden in Southeastern Europe, the Ljubljana Botanical Garden was established in 1810, and has been running uninterruptedly since then.

The garden is not as large as some of the others mentioned in this list, stretching out for just under five acres, but it still manages to encompass such a wide variety of plants and trees, as well as other standout features.

Out of the 4500 plant species that you will find here, a third of them are native to Slovenia, while the others come from Europe and the rest of the world.

In addition to the magnificent diversity when it comes to plant species here, these are some of the other highlights of the Ljubljana Botanical Garden:

  • The Tropical Glasshouse – There is a large glasshouse in the garden, which is home to around 400 plant species. These are native to different tropical areas around the world, and the interior of the glasshouse itself is reminiscent of a colorful, tropical jungle.
  • The Arboretum For those interested in seeing the different tree species at the garden, the arboretum is the area to head to first
  • The Cultivation Section A fascinating collection of plant beds that are used for research and propagation, which means starting off new plants before they are moved to other parts of the main garden

Being a Cultural Monument of National Importance, this is a garden that is open throughout the year, and the different plant collections here mean that there will always be something to see, no matter when you visit.

Wondering what else there is to do in the city of Ljubljana?

Plenty!

This is a beautiful, historic city, known for being one of the prettiest in Europe, and is filled with culture and heritage. From outdoor markets to a 16th century castle to a medieval Old Town, as well as world-class museums, restaurants and art galleries, this is the perfect city to head to for a European getaway

5. PETRIN GARDENS, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC 

One of the largest gardens in Prague, stepping into the Petrin Gardens will make you feel as though you have gone back in time. With fragrant florals, whimsical details, and a sweeping view of Prague Castle in the distance, this is definitely one of the prettiest spots in the city.

Here are some of the can’t-miss spots in the garden:

  • The Rose Garden – This is one of the highlights of Petrin Garden, as it is a six hectare garden that is filled with around 12,000 roses, of all sizes, shapes, colors and species
  • Petrin Observation Tower Built in 1891, this steel tower is a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
  • The Mirror Maze If you are visiting the park with children, this maze, lined with mirrors, will keep them entertained for ages
  • The Seminary Garden This used to be a monastery garden, and is now filled with mature fruit trees

How to Get to Petrin Gardens

Since Petrin Gardens is sat on Petrin Hill, it is quite a steep hike for those who would prefer to walk.

Alternatively, you can take the funicular to the top, which adds to the old-fashioned charm that you will experience at the gardens.

A Bite to Eat

Many visitors tend to make a day out of visiting the Petrin Gardens, and while you can bring along a picnic, there is also a delicious restaurant halfway up the hill. The funicular stops here as well, making it extremely convenient.

Called Nebozizek Restaurant, guests can enjoy a view over all of Prague from the floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as food and wine to suit a range of budgets. From traditional Czech cuisine to international flavors, this is a restaurant that aims to please every guest, making it the perfect way to break up your day.

6. ALHAMBRA GARDENS, GRANADA, SPAIN 

Located in Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains, the Alhambra de Granada is an Arabic palace and fortress complex that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are many buildings and areas within this historic complex, one of which is called Generalife, which refers to the main garden area.

Built in the 13th century, Generalife was a leisure spot for kings who wanted a quick escape from royal proceedings, and, while it has definitely changed quite a bit over the years, you can still feel such a sense of peace here.

These are some of the highlights of the Persian/Moorish-style garden:

  • The Court of the Long Pond – with pavilions and arched galleries, this is one of the most photographed garden features in all of Europe
  • The Court features a Roman peristyle garden
  • The Water Staircase always a refreshing place to be, especially in the summer months
  • The Low Gardens traditional Muslim-style gardens
  • The Soultana’s Court an intimate court that features numerous water jets all around

The Alhambra itself is one of Spain’s most popular historic landmarks, so you will likely end up spending quite a few hours exploring the buildings, as well as the gardens.

How to Get There

Granada is quite an easy city to access, with everything from plane, train, car and bus options available.

From the center of Granada, you can then either walk to the Alhambra, or take a taxi or bus from Plaza Nueva.

 

Planning a winter vacation? These seven incredible destinations will not only provide a relaxing break for you, but will also do so much for your skin.

Good for skin infections and diseases

PAMUKKALE, Turkey

Located in the south west of Turkey, Pamukkale is famous for its natural, white terraced pools and bubbling hot springs. For centuries, people have flocked here to bathe in these mineral-rich waters, with the Sacred Pool in particular having been used as a healing spa since Roman times.

There are 17 hot springs in total here, ranging in temperature from 35 to 100 degrees, with the water being heated by volcanic lava that lies deep below the ground.

You’re probably wondering…

What exactly is so great about this water?”

Well, the water here is packed with calcium bicarbonate and magnesium sulfate, meaning that it can: 

  • Rejuvenate the skin, while treating skin-related infections and diseases
  • Regulate high blood pressure
  • Boost the circulation
  • Help with digestion
  • Ease arthritis

 

Of course, you will not want to spend every single minute in these pools, but, fortunately, there is plenty else to see and do around Pamukkale, such as:

  • Visit the ancient Hierapolis Theatre
  • Tour the Hierapolis Museum
  • Explore the 11th Century Pamukkale Castle
  • Visit the Roman settlement of Laodikeia

If this all sounds good, here are a few extra tips that you will want to keep in mind when preparing for your trip:

  • Sunglasses are essential in the pools, as the sun reflecting off the white terraces can cause a strong glare in your eyes
  • Don’t forget to bring a waterproof bag for your valuables, as there is nowhere safe to store these so you will need to bring them into the pools with you
  • There is also nowhere for visitors to change their clothes, so you will need to pack swimwear that you can wear underneath your regular day clothes

 


good for psoriasis and stress

 

THE DEAD SEA, Israel

A salt lake that borders Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, the Dead Sea lies 400 metres below sea level, making it the lowest point on the planet. It is also one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, with ten times more salt content than the ocean.

So, other than its high salt content, what exactly makes the Dead Sea so special?

Well, one of its highlights is the fact that the Bromine and other metals that can be found in the air of the Dead Sea filter out the harmful UV rays of the sun, meaning that you will only be gaining its beneficial, rather than its detrimental, skin effects.

In addition to the minerals found in the salt within the water, the Dead Sea mud contains calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which can do so much for the skin, as well as the rest of the body.

There is also 5% more oxygen in the air here than at sea level, which can help with the following:

  • Normalizing the cell division process
  • Dealing with sun exposure
  • Stress levels
  • Psoriasis

In fact, the way in which psoriasis can be so hugely improved by a visit to the Dead Sea has triggered the launch of a number of spas in the area that specifically deal with this skin condition.

Wanting to plan a trip but not sure how long to stay for?

Well, a stay of around 14 to 28 days is ideal, as this really gives your skin the chance to soak up all the wonders of the Dead Sea. However, even if you cannot stay for that long, just a few soaks in the water will be enough for you to notice the difference in your skin. The minerals in the water are tiny enough to be able to quickly and easily penetrate your skin, leading to immediate results.

The temperature of the water in the Dead Sea stays consistent throughout the year, making it perfect for a warm winter vacation.

 


Good for acne, dark circles, exfoliation

SANTORINI, Greece

One of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, Santorini is known all over the world for its white-washed towns and magical sunsets. Within the Santorini archipelago are two uninhabited volcanic islands; Nea Kameni and Palaia Kameni, and it is these locations in particular that are known for their skin-boosting properties.

The water that surrounds these islands is heated by the volcanoes, making it warm and pleasant, at around 30 degrees Celsius, throughout the year. In addition to this, the water contains a number of minerals that have some fantastic benefits for the skin, including:

  • Sulfur – a gentle exfoliant, and one of the oldest acne-fighting ingredients out there
  • Iron – treats dark circles and speeds up the skin healing process
  • Manganese – packed with antioxidants and a great anti-inflammatory

Another huge health benefit to spending some time in Greece is the Mediterranean diet that you will be eating, as this is known for being the healthiest diet in the world

Santorini itself is a thriving tourism destination, welcoming over 1.5 million tourists each year. With everything from ancient ruins to some of the finest natural beauty in the world, this is a destination that you will want to return to time and time again.

 


good for decadent luxurious spas and one-of-a-kind treatments

 

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona

A desert city in Arizona, Scottsdale is one of the best spa destinations on the planet, with over 50 located in the central part of the city alone. You will find some of the most luxurious spas in the world here, including many that offer treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.

What makes these treatments so unique?

They make use of ingredients that are local to Arizona, of which there are so many that can work wonders on the skin.

Here are just a few that you can choose from:

  • Turquoise Wrap at the Boulders Resort & Spa – this makes use of a rich layer of turquoise clay to draw impurities out of the skin
  • Sanctuary Luxury Facial at the Spa at Sanctuary – this facial massage uses restorative crystals and precious stones that have been heated by the Arizona sun
  • Desert Serenity Scrub at the Phoenician – several desert ingredients are used here, including mineral-rich clay, aloe vera, and native essential oils 
  • Desert Nectar Honey Wrap at The Spa at Camelback Inn – Arizona honey is the key ingredient here
  • Desert Lavender Massage at the Talking Stick Resort – featuring wild chaparral oil and desert lavender, finishing off with a Pima cotton brush

When you aren’t spending your time spa-hopping, Scottsdale has plenty else to offer, including:

  • The natural beauty at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
  • Hiking Tom’s Thumb Trail
  • Exploring Old Town Scottsdale
  • Touring some of the city’s many museums
  • Visiting the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center
  • Trying your luck at some of Scottsdale’s many casinos

 


 

COUNTY SLIGO, Ireland

Located in northwestern Ireland, County Sligo is famous for being the home town of poet W.B. Yeats, whose grave is a spot that many tourists visit. In addition to its literary importance, County Sligo has long since attracted visitors due to its local seaweed, which is packed with a wide range of vitamins.

The area used to be home to over 300 bathhouses, each of which specialized in skin care treatments that made use of this incredible seaweed.

Today, only two of these classic bathhouses remain in the area…

But, they are still the perfect spot to visit to give your skin a bit of a treat.

There are numerous studies out there that point to the fantastic benefits that seaweed can have for the skin, such as:

  • Boosting hydration with its essential fatty acids
  • A natural anti-inflammatory that can soothe acne
  • Drawing out toxins from the skin
  • Fighting against cellulite

One of the must-try skin treatments here is thalassotherapy.

This consists of a warm bath that is saturated with seaweed. After soaking in this bath for a while, you will notice a huge improvement in your circulation, as well as a much softer overall complexion, as the seaweed will have drained your lymphatic system of any toxins.

 


good for scars, dark spots, chronic skin diseases

 

KUSATSU, Japan

Japan is famous for its onsens, which are local hot springs that usually have resorts and inns located around them. While these can be found all over the country, there are certain areas that feature hot springs with water of an exceptional quality.

Kusatsu is one of these regions, with the Kusatsu Onsen being one of the most popular in the country, as it contains the largest amount of hot spring water in Japan.

While many tourists simply enter into the hot springs and enjoy a warming soak, there are actually a few distinct traditional bathing styles at the Kusatsu Onsen that are practised by locals:

  • Yumoni – this is a process that involves using long wooden boards to beat the water, which cools it down to a temperature that the body can tolerate. While this is being performed, traditional songs are sung, which helps to relax the body and regulate breathing before you enter the water.
  • Kaburiyu – this involves the bather covering their head with a towel and then repeatedly pouring water down the back of their head. The reason for this is to prevent anaemia or dizziness when entering the water, while also increasing circulation and opening up the pores.
  • Jikan-yu – also referred to as timed bathing, jikan-yu consists of bathing in 48 degree water for 3 minutes at a time, as this has been found to be the optimum amount of time that the body needs to experience healing effects. While bathing, there is a dialogue going on between the bathers and the bath leader, which encourages the bathers to breathe more deeply and enhance the effects of the bath.

No matter which style of bathing you choose, the benefits that your skin will experience from the Kusatsu Onsen are vast:

  • Anti-bacterial properties will heal chronic skin diseases and scars
  • The mixture of volcanic gas and groundwater will soothe any inflammation
  • The alkaline water exfoliates the skin and clears dark spots
  • Sulfur in the water detoxifies the skin
  • Alleviates muscle tension and promotes relaxation

While soaking in the hot springs does provide a warm respite from the chill of Japan’s winter, you cannot visit Kusatsu without making the most of the winter activities that are offered here. Skiing in particular should not be missed, with the Kokusai Ski Resort situated just a few kilometres from the Kusatsu Onsen.

 


good for cleansing, exfoliating, skin healing

 

ROTORUA, New Zealand

Located on the North Island of New Zealand, Rotorua is not only famous for its traditional Maori culture, but also for being the most dynamic thermal area in the country. With everything from steaming geysers to gurgling mud pools to bubbling hot springs, this is one of nature’s finest spas.

While the water itself is great for your skin, it is Rotorua mud that has really become popular. This mud is rich in a number of minerals, including zinc, potassium, calcium and iron.

Wondering how this helps your skin?

Well, it has a number of benefits:

  • Cleansing
  • Exfoliating
  • Repairing damaged skin cells and tissue
  • Speeding up overall skin healing process

For those of you who have an interest in natural skin treatments, you are likely already aware of the benefits that Manuka honey can have. 

You will be happy to hear that Rotorua is filled with Manuka and Kanuka trees, both of which produce honey that has long since been used for medicinal purposes. This is a great opportunity to sample the honey in its purest form, while taking advantage of the many spas in the area that use the honey in skin treatments.

When it comes to heritage and culture, 35% of the population in Rotorua is Maori, making this a great spot to learn more about local traditions. Some of the must-see cultural attractions here include:

  • The Living Maori Village
  • The Rotorua Museum
  • The Tamaki Maori Village

 


Choosing a Destination

With so many fantastic skin-boosting destinations out there, deciding which one to visit can be quite tricky…

To begin with, identify the main skin issues that you want to tackle, whether this may be dehydration, psoriasis or acne. Then, pick a destination that will not only cater to this, but also contains other attractions that you will enjoy. Whether this may be the history and Maori heritage of New Zealand, or the pulsating action of Scottsdale, these destinations will not only help to heal your skin, but will also do so much for your mind, body and soul.

Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain

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The capital of Spain, Madrid is a city that is filled with color and vibrancy, and also happens to be quite the hub for art and culture. For any art lovers that are spending some time in the city, these are just a few of the spots that you simply have to visit.

Museo del Prado
Based in a neoclassical building that was built in 1785, the Museo del Prado was initially intended to be a museum for natural sciences, but instead became one of the first public art museums in the world. The highlight of the museum is its royal art collections, especially its court paintings from the 15th to the 17th centuries, although there are plenty of other pieces to see too.

Mad is Mad
Mad is Mad is an art gallery located in the neighbourhood of Chueca, and has been around since 2005. This gallery is dedicated to showcasing contemporary art, hoping to educate the public on this style. The pieces that you will see here are quite eclectic, ranging from paintings and drawings to photography and video art, all of which cover a wide range of different concepts. Mad is Mad also boasts an on-site store where they sell pieces at extremely affordable prices, which is possibly one of the reasons as to why they have been so successful in bringing contemporary art to a wider audience.

Interior of Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

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Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Just like the Museo del Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is a part of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of art, and its main collection, which comes from the late Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, is considered to be one of the most important in the world. This collections consists of 775 paintings, which were brought back to Madrid by the Baron himself. Thanks to the restoration that the museum underwent a few years ago, these paintings are now presented better than ever, thanks to skylights and light marble floors.

The Elba Benitez Gallery
The Elba Benitez Gallery has been running since 1990, and is located in the courtyard of a historical villa, meaning that its surroundings are stunning. This gallery aims to explore the relationship between art and other disciples, including film, architecture, and tourism. There is quite a focus on Latin American art here, but there are many national artists that are also promoted, resulting in quite the diversity of pieces.

Interior of Museo Sorolla in Spain

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Museo Sorolla
Museo Sorolla is dedicated to Valencia artist Joaquin Sorolla, who was known for his bright, sun-drenched paintings, many of which are now used on postcards and greeting cards thanks to their cheery appeal. The museum is located in a mansion that was originally built for the artist himself, with the art being displayed on the main floor, as well as in the artist’s old studio areas. The rest of the house has been kept in its original state, so that visitors can gain a unique insight into the eclectic personality of the artist.

Madrid is a fantastic city for art lovers to visit, as there is such an incredible range of art to be found here. From the ancient to the contemporary, these museums and galleries will no doubt provide you with so much artistic inspiration.